Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common bacterial infection worldwide and infects about 1 in 3 adult Australians.
H. pylori is usually caught in childhood and persists throughout adult life in most cases. It lives inside the stomach. The infection causes no symptoms in most cases but may cause indigestion, upper abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, bloating and weight loss. H. pylori can lead to the following conditions:
- Gastritis: inflamed stomach lining.
- Stomach (gastric) ulcer. An ulcer is a break in the lining of the stomach wall.
- Duodenal (upper bowel) ulcer.
- Some stomach cancers.
Should I be tested for H. pylori?
Anyone who has had a stomach or duodenal ulcer in the past should be tested as treatment helps prevent further ulcers.
Other patients with any of the above symptoms should consult their doctor. Some may have an ulcer. Others with indigestion but no ulcer may benefit from H. pylori treatment. Patients with no symptoms are generally not tested, unless there is a family history of stomach cancer.
Testing is usually performed on a breath sample after drinking a special chemical solution. A piece of tissue taken during an endoscopy can also be tested.
How is it treated?
No single drug is effective against H. pylori. A number of different drug combinations are used, most commonly a course of 2 antibiotics and an ulcer-healing drug. A course of treatment is 1-2 weeks.
Treatment is 80-90% effective if taken correctly. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and thrush.
For more details, http://www.gut.nsw.edu.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.