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What is a Helicobacter Pylori Infection?
Gastritis is inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the stomach because of stomach infection. The bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori (also called H.Pylori) causes this infection. It’s the most common cause of gastritis worldwide. No way to prevent it is known.
What causes a H.Pylori Infection?
How people get this infection is unclear. Possible sources of bacteria may be contaminated water or utensils, and fecal-oral transmission (bacteria excreted in stools, then spread from person to person in close proximity).
H. Pylori can grow in the stomach lining covered by a layer of mucus that protects it from stomach acid.
What are the Symptoms of a H. Pylori Infection?
The main symptom is chronic stomach upset. Pain in the upper abdomen (belly) and cramps may be present and are often made worse by eating. Some people will have less appetite. Bad breath (Halitosis) may also be present. A burning acid taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, and bleeding may occur. However, most people with H. Pylori have no symptoms, and the infection is found when a stomach biopsy is done during upper endoscopy.
How is a H. Pylori Infection Diagnosed?
The doctor makes a diagnosis from a history of stomach upset, pain, and cramps. Sometimes, upper endoscopy (looking at the stomach lining through a lighted, flexible tube) is done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes. A stomach biopsy (removing a small piece of tissue) may be done to test for bacteria in the stomach and exclude other stomach diseases. A breath test (testing with a substance called Urea) or stool test may also be used for diagnosis. Blood tests can also measure antibodies to H. Pylori, but won’t tell whether an infection is new or old because antibodies to the bacteria can last for several years after treatment.
How is a H. Pylori Infection Treated?
Three or four drugs may be taken for 7 to 14 days. These usually include a combination of antibiotics (e.g. Amoxicillin, Clarithromycin, Tetracycline, Metronidazole, and Levofloxacin), acid-suppressing drugs (e.g. Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, and Pentoprazole), and Bismuth Sub-salicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Complications, such as stomach ulcers, bleeding, and increased risk of stomach cancer, can occur in people with long-lasting infection left untreated.
In Managing H. Pylori Infection, it also helps to:
Not smoke or drink alcohol, and not take any medicines that irritate your stomach, such as Aspirin and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
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