H Pylori Blood Tests, Procedures, and Treatments
H pylori blood tests help medical professionals detect the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in a person’s digestive system. H pylori lives in the stomach of at least one-third of the world’s population and can cause mild, moderate, or severe h pylori symptoms in individuals.
The most common effect of an H pylori bacterial infection is gastritis (swelling of the stomach lining) and peptic ulcers as a result of the overproduction of stomach acids that erode the lining. Over time, peptic ulcers and gastritis can cause much discomfort and may be extremely painful in some individuals.
Many people never seek medical attention for this type of bacterial infection because in many cases there is no indication that the infection is present. Most people that carry the bacteria do not develop ulcers as a result of the infection. When symptoms are present, an H pylori blood test is one of the best ways to diagnose the infection.
How H Pylori Blood Tests Detect the Bacteria
H pylori blood tests reveal certain markers in the blood that indicate the presence of an infection. The body naturally creates antibodies to fight off all sorts of bacteria that invade the body. Each type of bacteria living in the body causes our immune system to create antibodies that are specifically design to fight the offending germs. H pylori blood tests look for the unique antibodies in the blood that are used to fight H pylori.
The presence of these antibodies in an H pylori blood test can mean that you currently have an H pylori bacterial infection or that you have had one in the past. The concentration of the antibodies can help doctors determine if you have a current infection, but isn’t an effective way to determine if a recent treatment for this type of infection was successful.
Since the antibodies for H pylori remain in the blood stream long after treatment, H pylori blood tests will show the presence of antibodies even if treatment was successful. To determine the effectiveness of treatment, most experts agree that a stool antigen test provides the most conclusive information.
How H Pylori Blood Tests are Completed
H pylori blood tests are typically recommended when a person has abdominal pain that occurs frequently, but isn’t constant, and is accompanies by any of the common symptoms of an H pylori related disease. (Confirmed peptic ulcers or gastritis are common related diseases.)
Although the H pylori blood test is not conclusive of the current state of an infection, it can provide preliminary insight into the makeup of antibodies in the blood and assist with future diagnosis. Peptic ulcers are treated differently depending on their cause, so it is important to determine the reason one has this condition.
The blood test is completed by simply drawing a blood sample from the vein. A pathologist will examine the blood sample under a microscope to check for antibodies related to H pylori and other blood markers that may be related to a person’s symptoms.
What Happens After a Positive H Pylori Blood Test
If an H pylori blood test reveals the presence of antibodies, further testing may be recommended. A urea breath test or stool antigen test are the most common methods to test for an H pylori infection.
Patients who are older than fifty years of age and those with inconclusive urea and stool tests may be subjected to more invasive forms of H pylori testing. An endoscopy procedure in which a doctor explores the stomach with a tiny camera may be necessary to look for the signs of H pylori. A biopsy sample (tissue sample to be examined) is usually taken at the time of the procedure to test for the bacteria.
If any of these tests shows that there is an H pylori infection in the stomach and ulcers are also present, treatment will be recommended. H pylori treatment is usually accomplished through a combination of several medications that effectively work to kill the bacteria and reduce stomach acids. Treatment for the bacteria is also recommended if a person has a family history of stomach cancer, since genes are one of the many factors that contribute to the likelihood that a person with H pylori will develop cancer.
Antibiotics are administered to eradicate the bacteria from the body, but some antibiotics are ineffective on the bacteria. There are many types of H pylori, so the H pylori blood tests are used to determine which type of strand the person is carrying. This information helps the doctor to choose the appropriate antibiotic.
Additionally, H pylori is treated with medications that reduce stomach acids known as proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. PPIs work by stopping the process that pumps acid into the stomach.
Finally, an H2 blocker is prescribed to stop the histamines that cause the acid to be secreted into the stomach.
In some cases, bismuth subsalicylate may be used to help kill off the bacteria – though it is not effective as a treatment on its own.