Helicobacter pylori are one of the most common types of bacteria to cause infection in the stomach lining and upper part of the small intestine. It’s the primary cause of ulcers across the globe, and about two-thirds of the world population have it inside their body. It is infamously referred as the “ulcer bacteria,” however with it can be avoided efficiently with healthy habits.
Until the discovery of Helicobacter pylori, researchers believed spicy food, stress, smoking and other bad lifestyle habits are responsible for ulcers. But in 1982, experts found that this bacteria attacks the stomach lining that protects the stomach from acids which help in digesting food. It produces a cytotoxin named vacuolating cytotoxin A. After damaging the lining, it may bleed or cause infections and even keep food from moving through the alimentary canal.
How can H. Pylori enter the body?
Typically, this bacteria can enter the body via contaminated food or water. It’s most predominant in developing and underdeveloped nations where a shortage of proper facilities and infrastructure which ultimately leads to lack of basic sanitation. It is contagious and easily infects other people. Both adults and children are susceptible to this condition. The H. Pylori infection symptoms don’t arise instantly. So the condition can stay in a dormant state for years.
What are the H. Pylori infection symptoms?
In several cases, symptoms of infection don’t manifest. However, acutely infected people may have symptoms like:
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting, in severe cases the person might throw up blood
- Abdominal uneasiness
- Chronic abdominal pain
- In case of ulcers, a burning sensation may come and go and mostly when the stomach is empty. Ulcers bleed the linings of stomach and duodenum, thus show some symptoms like:
- Bloody, dark red or black stools
- Fatigue without no reason
- Breathing problems
- Feeling full even eating minimal amounts of food
- Unexplained weight loss
How are H. Pylori infection symptoms diagnosed?
Most infected individuals don’t display H. Pylori infection symptoms right away, so diagnosing the problem might get a bit tricky. Until you suffer from ulcers, clinical specialists usually determine that H. Pylori bacteria is the cause. But in case you have noticed some of the signs mentioned above you must seek immediate intervention. Even medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can lead to such type of infection. Therefore, it’s vital to know the reason of the ulcers as well as the symptoms before taking medications. The diagnosis includes tests like:
- Upper GI endoscopy – The doctor uses a tube, fixed with a tiny camera (endoscope) to look at the stomach and duodenum portion of small intestine. The assessment may require a sample to be examined for verifying the presence of bacteria.
- Upper GI tests – In this kind of diagnostic examination, the patient has to drink barium liquid to get an x-ray. The fluid covers the throat and stomach portions to make it visible on the image.
- CT scan or MRI – To get detailed images of the interior of the body, the doctors might recommend CT scan or MRI.
- Additional tests – Tests for antibodies in blood along with a urea breath test, blood tests for checking anemia because lack of sufficient RBCs might have resulted from a bleeding tumor. Specific tests checking for antigens in the stool, the fecal occult blood test to check blood in stool, endoscopy, and biopsies.
How can H. Pylori be treated?
In case of chronic infections, the natural defenses of the stomach are weakened, and therefore, maximum patients with signs must be treated immediately to prevent ulcer formations. After commencing the treatment, it takes one to two weeks for a patient to recover completely. To eradicate H. Pylori infection usually two or more drugs are simultaneously prescribed. Along with medications, the specialists can also prescribe antacids with a protein pump inhibitor (PPI). In severe cases, the treatment can compel you to take 12-14 pills daily for a few weeks. In this regard, it’s essential to follow the doctor’s suggestions. Any deviation from it can boost the bacteria’s resistance capacity against antibiotics. Such situation can make the treatment increasingly ineffective.
In case, if you are experiencing any side-effects due to prescribed medications, get in touch with your specialist. Please don’t self-diagnose and try out any treatments without your doctor’s approval.
Post one or two weeks, you will be advised to get tested again to check for any improvements in the H. Pylori infection symptoms.
How can one prevent an H. Pylori infection?
Following are some useful tips that can help prevent stomach ulcers:
- Alcohol, as well as smoking, aren’t directly associated with the infection. However, these can slow down your healing process, so give up on them entirely.
- If you already are on some medications, then it is advised that you talk to your doctor about it. Like mentioned earlier, frequent consumption of NSAIDs can lead to stomach ulcers.
- Avoid caffeine
- Manage stress.
- Avoid unclean water and food and maintain proper hygiene in the home.
Presently no vaccine is developed to treat such conditions, so monitoring the H. Pylori infection symptoms and early prognosis is the key to manage it effectively.