Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, is a very common condition that comes from a spiral-shaped bacterium. At Los Angeles Gastroenterology Clinic in Santa Monica, California, S. Radi Shamsi, MD, can find out if your gastrointestinal symptoms are caused by H. pylori. The bacterium can thrive in your stomach, as well as your duodenum, the area of the intestine just below your stomach. H. pylori can protect itself from harsh stomach acid by covering itself with the mucus that lines your stomach. It can even penetrate your stomach’s lining and cause bleeding or ulcers, meaning you’ll need to get a diagnosis at the first sign of abdominal discomfort.
The H. pylori bacterium is believed to enter the body through your mouth, after drinking tainted water. You can also come into contact with H. pylori by eating contaminated food, especially if the preparer’s hands haven't been washed properly.
Some researchers believe it may be possible for men and women already infected with the H. pylori, to spread it through kissing, or sharing food or drinks. It’s possible for H. pylori to move from your stomach or intestine, into your mouth, when you belch or have acid reflex. Once it’s in your mouth, it’s can be spread through saliva.
Yes, although many of the symptoms can be mixed up with other types of gastrointestinal problems. Very few signs of an H. pylori infection occur, but the infection can create toxins that are often noticeable.
Diseases and conditions related to H. pylori can cause abdominal pain or burning, frequent burping, or occasional vomiting or nausea. You might also have changes in your weight or appetite. Bloody stools or vomit that appears to contain coffee grounds, may also be a symptom. Any of these issues should be brought up during your appointment with Dr. Shamsi.
A non-invasive breath test may be helpful for determining the presence of H. pylori. This breath test works by studying H. pylori’s effects on a liquid you're asked to drink. It takes about 30 minutes for this test to provide good results, plus it’s simple to do. A second non-invasive measure involves testing your stool for certain proteins that H. pylori creates.
Dr. Shamsi might recommend having an endoscopy to get a clear diagnosis. Plus if need be, he can take a tiny sample of tissue from your stomach to further help with your H. pylori diagnosis.
Yes. H. pylori is usually treated by antibiotics. Their effectiveness is closely monitored by Dr. Shamsi during your recovery. Usually, you’ll need to take antibiotics for a 14-day period. After this, you’ll need a breath or stool test to see if the H. pylori is gone. Even if the treatment is successful, it is possible to become infected again.