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Helicobacter pylori infection: Treatment, symptoms, advice & help

About helicobacter pylori infection

Helicobacter pylori is a spiral-shaped, gram negative bacterium which is known predominantly to affect the stomach, leading to gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and peptic ulcer disease.

Helicobacter pylori infection: Incidence, age and sex

Helicobacter pylori infection is a commonly encountered problem in the general population. It may occur in age group; both children and adults may be affected. However, the incidence of infection seems to rise with increasing age. The incidence seems to be higher in developing countries as compared with industrialized nations. Both men and women are equally prone to acquiring a helicobacter pylori infection.

Signs and symptoms of helicobacter pylori infection: Diagnosis

The clinical features of Helicobacter pylori infection are similar to that of peptic ulcer disease, and include stomach pain, sensation of bloating, loss of appetite and weight loss. Features of anaemia like fatigue, palpitations and breathlessness may also be experienced. Other features like vomiting or change in bowel habits, may also be complained of. Occasionally gastro-intestinal bleeding may be manifested by occurrence of black, tarry stools.

A detailed history and comprehensive physical examination usually point towards the diagnosis which may be corroborated with the presence of anaemia in a blood test and the presence of occult blood in the stool. Certain tests like blood test, urea breath test and stool antigen test may be advised to establish the diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori infection. Sometimes upper gastro-intestinal endoscopy may be needed wherein a flexible tube is passed through mouth into the digestive tract to view the interior of the stomach. A specimen of the ulcer tissue can be taken to study it microscopically, to confirm the presence of H. pylori bacteria.

Causes and prevention of helicobacter pylori infection

Helicobacter pylori infection is an infectious condition which can be transmitted from person to person, mainly through the faecal-oral route. Poor personal hygiene and sanitation plays a critical role in development and spread of this infection, thus proving its higher incidence in developing nations. Disruption between aggressive and defensive factors in the gastro-intestinal system is a triggering factor in causing damage to the gastric lining which results from its infection by the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori.

Lifestyle modifications including maintaining good personal hygiene, avoid staying in crowded places, drinking clean water and washing hands before eating food may help in reducing the spread of this infection.

Helicobacter pylori infection: Complications

Infection with helicobacter pylori may cause damage to the gastric lining wall, resulting in development of peptic ulcer disease. Peptic ulcer disease, in turn, may further complicate by bleeding (resulting in anaemia) or may progress to complete perforation of wall of the stomach (which is a surgical emergency)

Helicobacter pylori infection: Treatment

A course of triple regime including drugs like metronidazole, tetracycline and bismuth may be prescribed for 10 to 14 days to eliminate the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Sometimes the treatment may need to be extended for longer periods in individuals with resistant infectious strains. Further medications which reduce the production of gastric acids are also prescribed. Such medications include ranitidine, omeprazole and lansoprazole. Sometimes, mucosal protective drugs may also be prescribed which form a protective lining over the wall of the stomach.