Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, is a stomach bacterium that causes inflammation of the stomach lining and can lead to stomach ulcers. The H. pylori bacterium is present in most people and does not cause signs or symptoms, but in some people the bacteria can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
Symptoms of bacteria in the stomach attacking the stomach lining include a burning and aching pain in the abdomen, loss of appetite, excessive burping, bloating, weight loss, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms typically occur after eating, but can happen at any time. Severe inflammation of the stomach lining can lead to bleeding and symptoms of vomiting blood, and black and tarry stools. Medical attention should be sought immediately if you suspect bleeding in the stomach.
Several tests may be used to determine a diagnosis. A blood sample may reveal the H. pylori bacteria in your body. A stool sample can also be tested to check for the bacteria. In an endoscopy exam, your doctor threads a thin flexible scope down your throat into your stomach. With the scope, your doctor can view any abnormalities in your stomach and upper small intestine, and remove tissue samples to test for the H. pylori bacteria.
Treatment for stomach bacteria will involve antibiotics to destroy the bacteria. A 2 week course of a combination of antibiotics such as Biaxin and Flagyl is normally given in the hopes that the bacteria will not become resistant to one or the other antibiotic. Your doctor may also recommend stomach acid reducers such as Prilosec and Prevacid. These medications shut down acid producing pumps in the stomach. Histamine blockers such as Zantac and Pepcid reduces the amount of acid in your digestive tract.
Followup And Prevention
Your doctor may want you to be tested again for H. pylori bacteria a few weeks after treatment to be sure the bacterium is no longer in your system. To help prevent bacteria from affecting your stomach lining, quit smoking, avoid alcohol and only take aspirin on the advice of your doctor.
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