Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of H. Pylori
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a Gram-negative, microaerophilic bacterium typically found in the stomach and digestive tract. H. pylori grow profusely in the digestive tract and have a tendency to attack the stomach lining. Almost 50-60% of the world population has H.pylori in their upper gastrointestinal tracts. Usually, H. pylori are considered to be harmless, but they are responsible for causing sores, called ulcers, in the lining of the stomach or upper gastrointestinal tract. The intensity of infection varies from person to person. Most people remain unaffected by these bacteria. However, for some people, H. pylori can cause Peptic Ulcers and Gastritis. Also, in some individuals, the infections may lead to Stomach Cancer.
The helical shape of H. pylori allows them to penetrate the mucoid lining of the stomach, where the body’s immune cells cannot reach. Hence the bacteria can interfere with the immune system leading to various stomach ailments.
CAUSES OF H. pylori INFECTIONS:
The exact method of spreading of H. pylori infections is unknown yet. The bacteria have coexisted with humans in their gastrointestinal lining for thousands of years. The infections are thought to spread through contacts with saliva or other body fluids of infected people. H. pylori can be obtained from food, water, and utensils. It is most common in countries or communities having a poor sewage system and hygiene.
After the bacteria enters the body, it attacks the mucoid lining of the stomach which is responsible for protecting the stomach from the acids used for digestion of food. This makes the stomach cells susceptible to the harsh acids, thereby leading to stomach ulcers. In this way, H. pylori induce stomach disorders.
SYMPTOMS OF H. pylori INFECTIONS:
As most of the people remain unaffected by H. pylori infections, they do not experience any symptoms of the infection.
Individuals who get affected by H. pylori infection mostly have stomach ulcers. Symptoms of stomach ulcer include abdominal pain, felt especially when the stomach is empty. It is also known as gnawing pain, which may come and go. Consuming antacids may relieve such pains. Other symptoms may be listed as:
• Excessive Burping
• Lack of appetite
• Nausea & vomiting
• Unexplained weight loss
Following symptoms seek immediate medical help:
• Bloody stool
• Trouble breathing
• Trouble swallowing
• Dizziness or fainting
• Blood in vomit
• Severe stomach pain
In rare cases, H. pylori cause stomach cancer. So, the persistence of the above-stated symptoms needs proper diagnosis and medical assistance.
DIAGNOSIS OF H. pylori INFECTIONS:
If an individual has the symptoms of an ulcer, then he/she needs to be appropriately diagnosed. Following are some of the diagnostic methods for H. pylori infections:
1. Physical Exam:
A doctor will examine the stomach of the patient to check for signs of bloating and tenderness. This is the preliminary step for the diagnosis of infection.
2. Blood Test:
The blood sample of the patient is collected and examined to detect for H. pylori infections. Presence of antibodies against H. pylori indicates infection. However, this test is beneficial for people, who have never been treated for H. pylori infections before.
3. Stool Test:
A stool sample of the patient needs to be collected and checked for traces of H. pylori in the feces.
4. Urea Breath Test:
The patient is asked to drink a medicated liquid that contains urea, and his/her breath is collected as a sample for examination. If H. pylori are present, then it will release an enzyme that breaks down the urea into carbon dioxide gas. Thus, the presence of higher levels of gas than normal indicates H. pylori infections.
The doctor will insert a long, thin instrument called endoscope attached with a camera into the mouth and down into the gastrointestinal tract. If any abnormal area is detected through the attached camera, samples are collected from these areas for further examination.
TREATMENT FOR H. pylori INFECTIONS:
Following are some of the ways of treating H. pylori infections:
• Medications: Doctors generally prescribe a combination of two different antibiotics, along with another drug that reduces stomach acid. This treatment is also known as Triple Therapy.
• Maintaining proper hygiene & sanitation: Washing hands before eating food and consumption of clean water is necessary to treat as well as prevent H. pylori infections.
• Following a healthy diet: Avoiding spicy food, alcohol and smoking may heal ulcers.
If either of the symptoms is observed consult your doctor immediately and start the treatment as soon as possible.
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