Let’s Talk…Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori, have you heard of it?
What is Helicobacter pylori?
Helicobacter pylori is a stomach infection caused by spiral “corkscrew” shaped bacteria, hence the name “helico”bacter. The symptoms can be simple, like bloating or indigestion, or they can present as stomach ulcers or even cancer.
How are these bacteria spread?
The bacteria infect your stomach, and they commonly pass from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit or stools, most commonly through contaminated food or water.
What are the signs and symptoms of Helicobacter pylori infection?
- Upper Abdominal pain, especially when the stomach is empty
- Nausea, loss of appetite, flatulence
- Abdominal fullness and bloating
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blood in the stools or stools that are black or tarry in appearance.
How do you test for Helicobacter pylori?
- Urea breath test – you will be given a capsule to swallow and a few minutes later you will be asked to blow into a balloon.
- Stool antigen test – where a stool sample is tested for signs of the bacteria. •
- Gastroscopy – rarely, helicobacter is diagnosed incidentally during this test.
These tests, used to determine if you have the bacteria, will also be used to determine if you have cleared the infection.
How do you treat Helicobacter pylori?
If you are diagnosed with Helicobacter pylori infection your doctor will prescribe a week’s Treatment with “Triple therapy”, which consists of 2 antibiotics and a strong acid suppressant medication.
Complications that can result from the infection include:
- Ulcers, where the infection has compromised the stomach lining and caused erosions.
- Inflammation, where the infection causes irritation of the stomach lining, resulting in gastritis and indigestion.
- Stomach cancer: Helicobacter pylori is known to cause stomach cancer in some patients, so if you have the infection you should not waste time in getting it eradicated.
If you have any symptoms, make an appointment with your GP. Your general practitioner may even recommend other family members, or those in close proximity to yourself be tested if you are found to have it, to prevent the infection from spreading.
Important things to tell your GP are:
- Your symptoms and their severity
- How long your symptoms have been present
- Are these symptoms occasional or persistent?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- Are others that you’re in close contact with experiencing similar symptoms?
Any plan of action if you do have Helicobacter pylori will be tailored to your specific needs by your GP.
If you are concerned about Helicobacter pylori, make an appointment with your supportive and experienced caroline springs doctor and take those steps to a happier, healthier you.
Book online or call 03 9363 0954.