Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria causing infection of the stomach lining as well as the most immediate part of the small intestine connected to the stomach (duodenum). When the bacteria attacks the delicate tissues, the underlying structure is exposed and damaged by the acids produced by the stomach resulting in the formation of ulcers. If left untreated, the condition may contribute to development of cancerous lesions.
The symptoms often mimic those of peptic ulcers, heartburn, dental conditions (bad breath) and other gastric afflictions. The ailment often manifests itself by minor vomiting episodes, burping and general discomfort within the abdominal area. More severe symptoms, such as persistent pain, bloating, dark stools and chronic fatigue, are typically the signs of the disease. H. pylori may remain undetected for many years as numerous individuals never develop any symptoms. If the condition is suspected, it is important to have this area of the body examined by an experienced medical provider to avoid further complications. Person with a family history of H. pylori should be especially aware as the illness may be hereditary.
In order to properly diagnose the presence of H. pylori, several testing methods are presently available. The most simple and effective technique is breath analysis. To obtain correct results, the patient is advised not to use certain medications for a specified period of time prior testing, typically four weeks. In addition, the stool samples are often taken and analyzed for existence of H. pylori. In more severe cases, blood testing and biopsies may be recommended to obtain conclusive diagnosis.
Combination therapies work most effectively for patients facing the infections created by H. pylori. The treatment usually begins with a series of carefully chosen antibiotics to stop the progression of the disease. Second stage is treated with different set of medications. If the infection is not significantly reduced, both stages of the treatment may be combined into one aggressive approach to clear the bacteria completely. The side-effects are generally mild, and may include headaches, indigestion or diarrhea. However, if the side-effects become severe, other alternate methods of treatment may be prescribed.
When the treatment is completed, the patient is tested again to minimize the chances of relapse. All patients are advised to follow the course of treatment exactly as prescribed, as it is necessary to prevent re-occurrences of infection. Confirmation of eradication test is almost always performed, except in very mild cases of H. pylori.
It is not known how the bacteria spread. However, the scientists believe it may be contracted by infected water and food, as it is extremely common in undeveloped countries around the world. National Institutes of Health report that 20 percent of population in USA, under the age of 40, is infected, but not always treated due to mild and quickly dissipating symptoms often dismissed for general stomach discomfort.