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What Is H. pylori?

Symptoms continued...

Other signs of an ulcer include:

Ulcers can bleed into your stomach or intestines, which can be dangerous to your health. Get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms:

It’s not common, but H. pylori infection can cause stomach cancer. The disease has few symptoms at first, such as heartburn. Over time, you may notice:

  • Belly pain or swelling
  • Nausea
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Feeling full after you eat just a small amount
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss for no reason

Getting a Diagnosis

If you don’t have symptoms of an ulcer, your doctor probably won’t test you for H. pylori. But if you have them now or have in the past, it’s best to get tested. Medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also damage your stomach lining, so it’s important to find out what’s causing your symptoms so you can get the right treatment.

To start, your doctor will ask you about your medical history, your symptoms, and any medicines you take. Then she’ll give you a physical exam, including pressing on your belly to check for swelling, tenderness, or pain. You may also have:

  • Tests of your blood and stool, which can help find an infection
  • Urea breath test. You’ll drink a special liquid that has a substance called urea. Then you’ll breathe into a bag, which your doctor will send to a lab for testing. If you have H. pylori, the bacteria will change the urea in your body into carbon dioxide, and lab tests will show that your breath has higher than normal levels of the gas.

To look more closely at your ulcers, your doctor may use:

  • Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. In a hospital, a doctor will use a tube with a small camera, called an endoscope, to look down your throat and into your stomach and the upper part of your small intestine. You may be asleep or awake during the procedure, but you’ll get medicine to make you more comfortable.
  • Upper GI tests. In a hospital, you’ll drink a liquid that has a substance called barium, and your doctor will give you an X-ray. The fluid coats your throat and stomach and makes them stand out clearly on the image.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. It’s a powerful X-ray that makes detailed pictures of the inside of your body.

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