Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori)

H. pylori is contagious bacteria that enters your body and attacks the lining of your stomach or small intestine. Usually, the germs live in the body for years before damage begins to cause symptoms. H. pylori tends to infect people through food, water, or utensils, as well as through contact with the saliva or other body fluids of infected people.

What are the symptoms of H. pylori?

Once the bacteria have done enough damage to the lining of the stomach, which protects you from the acid your body creates to digest food, ulcers may form. Most infected with H. pylori will not form ulcers, but in those that do, the ulcers may bleed, cause infections, or prevent food from moving easily through the digestive tract.

Those with ulcers may experience:

  • A burning pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or at night
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dark or black stool (due to bleeding)
  • Vomiting blood (may resemble coffee grounds)
  • Weight loss
  • Severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen

Though it is not common, an H. pylori infection can cause stomach cancer. Early on there are few symptoms, such as heartburn. Eventually, you may experience:

  • Belly pain or swelling
  • Nausea
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Feeling full after eating an abnormally small amount
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss for no reason

How is H. pylori diagnosed?

Most diagnosed with H. pylori initially saw their doctor because they were experiencing ulcerative symptoms. However, ulcers can form due to both H. pylori or from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, which also damage your stomach lining). At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any medications you have or are taking. He or she will then perform a variety of tests to determine the exact cause of your symptoms:

  • EGD
  • blood tests
  • CT scans

How is H. pylori treated?

If you have ulcers caused by H. pylori, your doctor will recommend one or a combination of medications to kill the bacteria, heal the stomach lining, and keep the sores from coming back.

If you have concerns about H. pylori, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.