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H. pylori Infection

H. pylori infection

H. pylor (Helicobacter pylori) is a type of bacteria that infects the stomach.  It has the ability to live in the acidic environment of the stomach for many years.  It is not entirely clear how people pass on the infection to others.  Some of us perhaps get infected as children and get it from our parents.

 H. pylori infection can cause several problems.  In most people, H. pylori infection causes gastritis, or an inflammation of the stomach lining.  Most infected individuals are not aware of the infection.  However, many people can experience indigestion, abdominal pain, or nausea.  H. pylori is also one of the most common causes of ulcer disease.  It can causes ulcers of the stomach or the duodenum, also called Peptic Ulcer Disease.  We used to think that ulcers are caused by stress or acid.  It’s now clear that majority of stomach ulcers are either due to H. pylori or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen.  H. pylori is also a common cause of stomach cancer worldwide.  The World Health Organization has classified H. pylori as a Class I carcinogen (a cancer causing agent). 

We can diagnose H. pylori infection by a highly accurate and simple test in the office which takes about 20 minutes.  Blood tests for H. pylori are usually the least accurate.  If you have any alarm signs or symptoms, you many need to be evaluated by an upper endoscopy.  During endoscopy, biopsies are obtained and H. pylori bacteria can be visualized under the microscope.  Endoscopy is the best method or the gold standard, of diagnosis for H. pylori.  Endoscopy can also show the level of inflammation in the stomach and whether there are any ulcers or tumors presents.

H. pylori is treated with antibiotics.  We usually start with a combination of two antibiotics along with a medication to suppress stomach acid.  Treatment lasts 14 days.  You need to be rechecked for H. pylori infection 6 to 8 weeks after treatment to ensure that H. pylori infection is eradicated.

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