H. pylori is a type of bacteria - a germ that may cause infection. H. pylori infection is common, particularly in developing countries, and often begins in childhood. Symptoms usually don't occur until adulthood, although most people never have any symptoms. H. pylori causes more than half of peptic ulcers worldwide. The bacterium causes peptic ulcers by damaging the mucous coating that protects the stomach and duodenum. Damage to the mucous coating allows powerful stomach acid to get through to the sensitive lining beneath. Together, the stomach and H. pylori irritate the stomach and duodenum and cause an ulcer.Yet, most people infected with H. pylori never develop ulcers. Why the bacterium causes ulcers in some people and not in others is not known. Most likely, development of ulcers depends on characteristics of the infected person; the type, or strain of H. pylori present; and factors researchers have yet to discover.
Researchers are not certain how H. pylori is transmitted, although they think it may be spread through contaminated food or water. People may pick up the bacterium from food that has not been washed well or cooked properly or from drinking water that has come from an unclean source.Other research is exploring how infection spreads from an infected person to an uninfected person. Studies suggest that having contact with the stool or vomit of an infected person can spread H. pylori infection. And H. pylori has been found in the saliva of some infected people, which means infection could be spread through direct contact with saliva.
Abdominal discomfort is the most common symptom of both duodenal and gastric ulcers. Felt anywhere between the navel and the breastbone, this discomfort usually:
- is a dull burning pain
- occurs when the stomach is empty – between meals or during the night
- may be briefly relieved by eating food, in the case of duodenal ulcers, or by taking antacids, in both types of peptic ulcers
- lasts for minutes to hours
- comes and goes for several days or weeks
Other symptoms include:
- weight loss
- poor appetite
Some people experience only mild symptoms or none at all.Emergency symptoms include:A person experiencing any of the following symptoms should seek immediate help or call our office right away at (239) 593-6201.
- sharp, sudden, persistent, and severe stomach pain
- bloody or black stools
- bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
If a patient has peptic ulcer symptoms, your board certified doctor will first ask about use of OTC (over-the-counter) and prescription NSAIDs. Patients who are taking an NSAID will be instructed to stop, will have your dose reduced or will be switched to another medication.
Then your board certified physician will test to see if H. pylori is present. Testing is important because H. pylori-induced ulcers are treated differently than ulcers caused by NSAIDs.
Your board certified physician will use one of three simple, noninvasive tests to detect H. pylori in your blood, breath or stool. Because the breath test and stool test more accurately detect H. pylori than the blood test, your physician will likely prefer to use one of these two tests. Each of these test can easily be performed in our offices or as an outpatient.
If you experience any alarm symptoms, your board certified physician will likely order an endoscopy or upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. Your physician may recommend these tests for patients who first experience peptic ulcer symptoms around or over the age of 50. The tests can be performed at our Premier Endoscopy Center located on the second floor of our office building.