What is  H. pylori infection?


Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori) is a bacterium that infects the stomach, and causes chronic gastric disease. This bug resides in the stomach lining and thins it, to the extent that the acid in the stomach damages the mucosa underneath, and causes its ulceration. H. pylori is therefore, a very common cause of peptic ulcer disease.


A very large percentage of people around the world (roughly 60 percent) suffer from H. pylori but don’t realize they are suffering from it unless they develop symptoms of GI distress, and their doctor tests them for it. If you go to the best stomach specialist in Lahore with symptoms of peptic ulcer disease, one of the first investigations they perform is for H. pylori.


What are the causes of H. pylori?

While the exact cause of how this bug is contracted is not known, however, it is thought to spread from person-to-person through direct contact, or through contaminated food and water.


What are the risk factors of H. pylori?

The factors that make one vulnerable to this bug include:

Living in crowded conditions, and in a home with many other people increases the chances of contracting it from someone else.


The incidence of H. pylori also increases in regions that do not have a clean supply of water. As mentioned before, H. pylori is contracted through contaminated water and food, and in case someone drinks or uses unclean water, the chances of getting this bug are increased.


What are the symptoms of H. pylori?

Most of the adult population of the world is already infected with this bug, and they don’t realize it. However, when this bacterium causes ulceration, it does produce some symptoms like burning or aching sensation in the stomach. This pain is worse when one hasn’t eaten, or even a few hours after meal. The pain is often described as a gnawing type of pain, relieved with the use of antacids. However, this is the type of pain that doesn’t go away on its own and merits a complete check-up.


Other symptoms seen include: excessive bloating, nausea, fever, lack of appetite, and unexplained weight loss.


The alarming symptoms with H. pylori include: difficulty in swallowing, dark tarry stools—indicating blood in stool, blood in vomitus or anemia. If anyone has these symptoms, they should immediately reach out to their healthcare provider.


How is H. pylori diagnosed?

The diagnosis of this bug is a combination of history of the patient and a couple of diagnostic investigations. The confirmatory tests include: blood test to test for antibodies against H. pylori, stool test to check for signs of the bacterium, urea breath test and endoscopy to look at the inside view of the gastric mucosa.


How is H. pylori treated?

The regimen for treatment of this bug is four pronged. A couple of antibiotics—like amoxicillin and/or clarithromycin, along with an anti-protozoal drug like metronidazole, and a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to neutralize the gastric acid secretion. The treatment regimen should only be followed under the guidance of gastroenterologist in Islamabad and followed consistently for at least two weeks for complete eradication.