H. Pylori (Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Ulcers)

Stress, spicy foods, type A personality. Which of these causes most stomach ulcers? The answer: none of them. Research shows that most ulcers -- 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of those in the duodenum, the upper end of the small intestine -- develop because of infection with H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori).

Quick Facts

Symptoms:

  • Gnawing or burning abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (vomit may be bloody or look like coffee grounds)
  • Black, tarry stools

Cause:

H. pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium commonly found in the stomach. The bacteria's shape and the way they move allow them to penetrate the stomach's protective mucous lining, where they produce substances that weaken the lining and make the stomach more susceptible to damage from gastric acids.
 
The bacteria can also attach to cells of the stomach, causing stomach inflammation (gastritis), and can stimulate the production of excess stomach acid. Over time, infection with the bacteria can also increase the risk of stomach cancer.
 
Although it is not known how H. pylori infection is spread, scientists believe it may be contracted through food and water. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 20% of people under 40 years old and half of adults over 60 years old are infected.

Diagnosis:

  • Medical history review and review of symptoms
  • Physical examination
  • Upper Endoscopy - EGD
  • Upper GI - Barium swallow
  • Blood test
  • Stool test
  • Urea breath test 

Common Treatments:

  • Antibiotics to kill the bacteria
  • Medications, including H2-blockers and proton pump inhibitors, to reduce the amount of stomach acid
  • Surgery to treat ulcers
  • Stop smoking
  • Possible recommendations for change to diet, if appropriate 

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