What is H.pylori Infection?
Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori) is a type of bacteria found in the stomach. The bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, making the stomach a perfect habitat for growth. These bacteria can enter the body through food, water, utensils, and contact with saliva or body fluids from infected people.
H.pylori infection can cause sores (ulcers) in the stomach lining leading to dull pain in the belly. In severe cases, H. pylori infections may lead to stomach cancer.
If you suspect that you may have an H. pylori infection, seek medical advice from our doctor, who may conduct a gastroscopy to investigate the cause of your discomfort. Alternatively, consider arranging for a urea breath test. The test may help identify signs of H. pylori infection and offer early treatment for your infection.
What causes h.pylori infections?
While the exact cause of H.pylori infections is not known, H.pylori bacteria has been known to exist for thousands of years. The bacteria are spread through contact with saliva or body fluids from infected people.
They may also be transferred from faeces to the mouth, which can happen if good hygiene is not observed – e.g. when the hands are not washed properly after using the washroom. Additionally, H. pylori may also spread through contact with contaminated water, food, or utensils.
H.pylori bacteria can cause the stomach mucous lining to weaken, making the stomach more vulnerable to harsh acids. Stomach acid, along with the bacteria, may irritate the stomach lining. It may also lead to the formations of sores (or ulcers) in the stomach or duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.
What puts you at risk for h.pylori infections?
H.pylori infection is more commonly observed in children and during the early stages of childhood.
Risk factors for H. pylori infection may also be related to certain living conditions such as:
- Overcrowding in living conditions. As H. pylori infection can spread through saliva contact with infected people, crowded conditions can lead to a greater risk of being infected.
- Lack of clean water. H. pylori bacteria may survive in contaminated water; thus, having a clean supply of running water can help reduce the risk of infection.
- Living with an infected person in the household. If you live with someone infected with H. pylori, it is more likely to be infected through contact with their body fluids such as saliva.
How do I know if I am infected with H.pylori?
Most people with H. pylori infections may not experience any symptoms.
In cases where the infection leads to the development of sores in the stomach, symptoms such as abdominal pain may be experienced. This experience may come and go but may be felt more commonly when your stomach is empty.
Other symptoms that may arise due to an H. pylori infection may include;
- Excessive burping
- Feelings of nausea
- Loss of appetite
In some instances, patients may also experience unexplained weight loss. In rare cases, H. pylori infections may also lead to stomach cancer.
If the symptoms you are experiencing persists, you are advised to seek medical advice immediately to do a conclusive investigation on your condition through a gastroscopy.
How is H.pylori infection diagnosed?
H.pylori infections may be detected through a combination of physical examinations, tests, or a gastroscopy procedure.
During the physical exam, our doctor will examine your stomach to check for signs of bloating, tenderness, or pain. Indications of any discomfort may allow our doctor to decide if further investigations are required.
Blood and stool samples may also be taken to identify the presence of H. pylori in the body, either through detection of antibodies (in the blood) or the presence of virus (in the stool).
A urea breath test can also help with identifying H. pylori infection. Through this test, you will swallow a mixture containing urea. And if the bacteria are present, they will release an enzyme that releases carbon dioxide, which a device can detect.
A gastroscopy will be the most effective way of identifying signs of abnormalities in the stomach.
Our doctor will insert a long, thin instrument called an endoscope into your digestive tract. An attached camera will send back images on a monitor for our doctor to view. Any abnormal areas will be inspected. If necessary, special tools used with the endoscope will allow our doctor to take samples from these areas for further investigations.
What are the possible complications of H.pylori infections?
If left untreated, H.pylori could lead to complications such as gastritis, peptic ulcers, or even stomach cancer. H.pylori may damage or irritate the lining on your stomach making you more susceptible to the above mentioned conditions.
How can H.pylori Infection be prevented?
H.pylori infection can be avoided by maintaining good personal hygiene. Taking simple steps such as washing your hands thoroughly, eating food that has been prepared in a clean environment, and drinking water from a safe source can all help prevent the spread of H.pylori infection.
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