Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori), a spiral-shaped bacteria, lives in the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine that causes peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. They are usually known as “Ulcers” or “Stomach Ulcers”.
Before 1982, it was considered that spicy food, stress, and lifestyle were the causes of ulcers. But in 1982, Australian scientists discovered H.pylori in the stomachs of patients with gastritis and peptic ulcers. At that time, the conventional thinking was that NO bacterium can live in the acidic environment of the human stomach and stomach is considered sterile. Hence the discovery of H.pylori is considered as a revolution in the field of medical sciences.
Over two-thirds of the world, the population has H.pylori infection and hence considered as the most common bacterial infection of man. It means 3 out 4 people have H.pylori in their body. According to research 60 to nearly 100% of peptic ulcers are associated with H.pylori.
Peptic ulcers may also be caused by the long-term use of medicines like NSAIDs. These may include painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. A study found that ulcers are rare in H.pylori negative – NSAID (medicines) takers.
Many people those carry the bacterium have little or no symptoms and are apparently healthy, but 99.9% have inflammation of the stomach lining, a condition which is called as “Gastritis”. Gastritis is the primary condition which leads to ulcers and other digestive problems. If a person has had an H.pylori infection constantly for 20-30 years, it can lead to stomach CANCER. The World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified H.pylori as a “Class – I – Carcinogen” i.e. it is in the same category like cigarette smoking causing cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract.
Here are some important facts about h.pylori which give you a brief awareness about this infection. So that whenever you feel any symptom of this infection, you can immediately consult the best Gastroenterologist in Lahore or other main cities through Marham.
How H.pylori produces illness?
A stomach is protected by a layer made of mucus which has a special purpose of protecting stomach walls from its own acid. H.pylori takes advantage of this protection by living in the mucus lining. And on attacking the mucus lining it exposes the stomach parts to the strong gastric acid. Bacteria and gastric acid both contribute to irritating the stomach walls and causing ulcers, gastritis and stomach cancer.
What are the symptoms produced by H.pylori infection?
Many people with h.pylori have no symptoms. But when the bacteria cause illness, there are several symptoms that can be seen.
If the patient has a stomach ulcer, the symptoms may include a dull or burning pain in the upper abdomen part. The pain may be worse with the empty stomach or at night or in the early morning. It may last from minutes to hours and may be relieved with the antacids or eating something. Loss of appetite and feeling of fullness are other important symptoms of peptic ulcer disease. Sometimes bleeding can also be seen in peptic ulcer patients that lead to anemia in patients.
Similarly, gastritis often shows symptoms like upper belly pain, nausea, and vomiting.
The Relation Between H.pylori and Stomach Cancer
According to the research people with h.pylori infection may be up to six times more likely to get stomach cancer. Gastric cancer is the second most common cancer in the world. Early diagnosis and proper treatment of h.pylori can help in reducing the chances of the damage that h.pylori may cause. And hence, it may help in reducing the risk of stomach cancer and other problems.
Symptoms of stomach cancer are similar as of peptic ulcer and gastritis, i.e. loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, burning pain, feeling of fullness, bleeding, etc. people with any of these symptoms should talk to their doctor. And an immediate diagnosis of the issue is required.
Read Also: 5 Homemade Remedies For Stomach Pain
What Are The Possible Complications Due To Ulcers?
An ulcer can cause serious complications if left untreated. These may include
- Internal bleeding
- A hole in the stomach that lead to further infections
- Scar tissue that can block the stomach or intestine, preventing it from emptying the food.
- Stomach cancer
The bleeding from ulcers may have the following symptoms;
- Severe stomach pain
- Black stool
- Stool with bright red blood
- Vomit with bright red blood
- Vomit that appears like coffee grounds
- Weakness, anemia, shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Chills or fever
How Do You Get an H.pylori infection?
It is not known how people get an h.pylori infection and why some people show symptoms and others do not. The bacteria are most likely to spread through contaminated food and water. It is found in the human saliva also, so it can spread from person to person.
Expert advice to prevent H.pylori infection
- Washing hands before eating and after using washrooms
- Eating hygienic food which is properly cooked
- Drinking clean water only
Who Should Be Tested and Treated For H.pylori Infection?
Patients with active peptic ulcers or a history of ulcers should be tested for h.pylori. Similarly, patients having a family history of cancer should be tested for this bacterium. Testing for and treatment of h.pylori is recommended for the early diagnosis and reducing the risk of stomach cancer and peptic ulcer disease.
How Can H.pylori Infection Be Diagnosed?
Several types of tests are conducted to diagnose the presence of h.pylori, which are
- A blood test that detects the presence of specific H.pylori IgG antibodies.
- Breath test
- The stool test
- Endoscopy: doctors view the inside of the stomach with a special machine
- Biopsy: microscopic examination of the tissues taken from the inner parts of the stomach or intestine while endoscopy
What Is The Treatment of H.pylori?
Therapy for h.pylori consists of 10 days of 2 weeks of treatment with
- Antibiotics to kill H.pylori
- Medicines that reduce stomach acid and which protect the stomach from acids
- Medicines that coat the ulcer and help it to heal
- Stopping NSAIDs (painkillers of a specific type)
- Taking NSAIDs if necessary with special medicines which protect the stomach
- Avoid alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Avoid food that triggers stomach pain in your case. For example; spicy food, fried items, and foods that are hard to digest etc.
According to the researchers, h.pylori is also showing resistance towards antibiotics. This means bacteria can survive the treatment and patient need another antibiotic to kill the bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem across the globe. But everyone should contribute to reducing this problem by proper use of antibiotics according to prescription only.
Is it necessary to do tests for H.pylori after completion of the antibiotic course?
The answer is… Yes! It is very important to go for h.pylori diagnosing test after completing the course of medicines to check whether the bacteria are completely killed or not. H.pylori infection is hard to fight with because the bacteria reside deep inside the lining of the mucous lining of the stomach. The recurrence of the infection is very common.
Blood test for checking the presence of bacteria after treatment may give false results because antibodies remain in the blood for 12 to 18 months after treatment. So stool test is advisable for detecting infection after treatment.
These are some important facts about the h.pylori infection which everyone should know because this infection is present in more than half of the population of the world. And this is not easy to treat the infection. As explained above complications produced by this infection is life-threatening. So early diagnosis and proper treatment are very important. It is not advisable to ignore your stomach pain and loss of appetite. Because maybe they are the signs of a serious problem like ulcers due to h.pylori infection. Immediate consultation with the doctor is recommended in this type of situation, as today the increasing risk of cancers in the world population is alarming.
Now You can also find the best gastroenterologist in other main cities of Pakistan.