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H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori)

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How H. pylori Is Diagnosed continued...

Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series. An X-ray of the upper GI tract -- the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Prior to the X-ray you must swallow a chalky liquid called barium, which makes ulcers show up on the X-ray.

Endoscopy. A procedure that involves snaking a thin, flexible tube with a camera down the esophagus, through the stomach, and into the small intestine to view the upper GI tract.

Blood test. A test that looks for antibodies in the blood that indicate exposure to H. pylori.

Stool test. A test that uses a small sample of stool to look for evidence of infection.

Urea breath test. A test used to check for the presence of a gas produced by the bacteria.

Treatments for H. Pylori

There a number of treatments for H. pylori infection. They include:

  • Antibiotics to kill the bacteria
  • Medications, including H2-blockers and proton pump inhibitors, to reduce the amount of stomach acid
  • Surgery to treat ulcers

Doctors used to advise people with ulcers not to eat spicy, fatty, or acidic foods. However, it is now known that diet has little if any effect on ulcers for most people. Smoking, on the other hand, can interfere with the healing of ulcers and has been linked to their recurrence. If you smoke and have ulcers, that is another reason to stop.

The appropriate treatment for you will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Your age, health, and medical history
  • The severity of infection or stomach damage
  • Your ability to tolerate certain medications or treatments
  • Your treatment preference

As with most health conditions, the best treatment for H. pylori is prevention. Right now, there is no vaccine against H. pylori, and because doctors don't fully understand how the bacterium is spread, there are no guidelines for preventing it. However, it is always important to protect yourself from GI infections by washing your hands well and frequently, practicing safe food preparation and storage, and drinking water from a safe source.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Andrew Seibert, MD on June 16, 2012
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