H Pylori Symptoms
H pylori (full name Helicobacter pylori) is considered to play a role in the vast majority of stomach ulcer cases. As a result, many people want to know what the H pylori symptoms are so they can detect it early.
Unfortunately, most cases of H pylori are completely asymptomatic. The majority of people infected with Helicobacter pylori have no idea they even have it until they get an ulcer. Many of the symptoms associated with H pylori are actually the same as stomach ulcer symptoms.
Symptoms of H Pylori
Of those that experience H pylori symptoms, you could expect some of the following:
- Burning stomach pain
- Loss of appetite or unexpected weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Generalized abdominal pain
About the H Pylori Bacteria
As you can see from the list above, these are very general symptoms. This is because of the path of action of the H pylori bacteria.
This bacteria lives in the lining of the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Its presence in the stomach lining can weaken the body’s natural defense against its own stomach acid.
As a result, the irritation (inflammation) of the stomach lining due to H pylori can make Helicobacter pylori hard to diagnose. The symptoms are very similar to what is referred to as gastritis, which literally just means irritation of the lining of the stomach.
How H Pylori is Spread – How Did I Catch H Pylori?
The unusual thing about H pylori is that it is very widespread and much of the world’s population is thought to be infected with it, yet the exact method of transmission is not well-known.
It is frequently thought to be transmitted in the same way as many other gastrointestinal diseases: via food and water. However, tracking infected food is extremely difficult. The reason it is hard to track the Helicobacter pylori bacterium is because of the vague and often delayed symptoms of H pylori.
If you were to become infected with H pylori, odds are you would have no idea that this was the case until you had a stomach ulcer, as H pylori symptoms often to not present themselves until ulceration.
Given that testing for H pylori is fairly difficult (the test is simple, but requires specialized equipment), tracking H pylori infections becomes nigh impossible. We know when E. coli is found in food, as symptoms are immediate and testing is easy. This allows the contaminated food or water to be easily tracked.
Since the symptoms of H pylori can take months or years to present themselves, tracking an infectious source is impossible. After all, how would we ever discover an H pylori outbreak if no one knew they were sick?
With that said, it is theorized that common locations for contaminated foods (restaurants, particularly buffets) are likely candidates for transmission.
H Pylori Symptoms – The Next Step
If you are having H pylori symptoms or even have been travelling in countries known for high H pylori rates and think you are infected, odds are you will want to know what your next step is.
Once you have identified your symptoms (or are suspicious of infection), there are three steps in the treatment process: testing & diagnosis, treatment, and re-testing.
H Pylori Testing & Diagnosis
In order to confirm or reject the hypothesis of H pylori infection, a diagnostic test is needed. Currently the most popular test is the urea breath test, as it is a simple, accurate, and non-invasive procedure. A positive test typically results in an H pylori diagnosis.
For this sort of test, you simply have to drink a solution and then exhale into a specialized piece of equipment. There is a bit more to the test than this, and if you are curious about testing you can read more on our section: H Pylori Test.
Note that there are some mail-in test kits which use stool or blood samples, but these are never as accurate as breath testing or endoscopy. The antigens and antibodies these tests look for are not always present, particularly if the H pylori infection is new or the bacteria is dormant.
H Pylori Treatment and Retesting
If you have H pylori symptoms, get tested, and get diagnosed with H pylori infection, you will find yourself up on the treatment block.
Treatment for H pylori is actually not as easy as most bacteria. The H pylori bacteria is very resistant to antibiotics, is capable of going dormant, and often burrows deep into the stomach lining in order to escape a threat. It is a very resilient bacteria.
As a result, the antibiotics used to treat H pylori are very harsh and often have a lot of side effects. You can learn more about the specific of treatment in our section: H Pylori treatment.
Since H pylori is so resilient, many doctors will order a retest anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks after the treatment was delivered. If H pylori was not eradicated with treatment, this gives enough time for the population to recover so that it can be tested for again.
A check-up is important because treatment success rates have often been reported to only be around 70-80% and seem to be getting worse over time as this bacteria evolves and adapts.
H Pylori Bacteria Symptoms Conclusion
To recap, the symptoms of H pylori are generally non-existent. The symptoms could include: stomach pain, burning pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and general gastrointestinal distress.
If you think you have Helicobacter pylori, the only way to know for sure is by getting tested. If you experience any more serious symptoms such as blood in vomit or stool (dark red or black), seek medical attention immediately.