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H. pylori is a spiral-shaped bacteria that is notorious for causing stomach-related issues. The bacteria can alter the surrounding environment and minimise acidity to enhance their survival. In view of its shape, H. pylori can almost effortlessly penetrate the stomach lining. While the bacteria are generally not life threatening, they can potentially cause a myriad of digestive problems, especially in people with compromised immune systems or a history of digestive issues.
Helicobacter pylori is a highly prevalent chronic bacterial infection that is present in nearly 31% of Singaporeans. Majority of people infected with H. pylori never exhibit any symptoms or complications. However, clinical evidence has shown that H. pylori remains a major treatable risk factor for peptic ulcer and gastric malignancy. Fortunately, a H. pylori infection can be treated.
Most people with a H. pylori infection never experience any significant health concerns. However, in some people, the bacteria can potentially trigger long-lasting irritation, swelling, as well as pain in the stomach leading to stomach ulcers. If left untreated, this can potentially lead to cancer.
Research shows that nearly 44% of people worldwide have a H. pylori infection and the bacteria is believed to account for the majority of stomach ulcers, one of the leading causes of stomach cancer.
Although the bacteria are not generally harmful, H. pylori infections can lead to a plethora of problems, especially in people with a weakened immune system or a history of stomach issues. To help curb any potential health complications such as gastritis and stomach cancer, schedule an appointment with a doctor if you suspect that you may be suffering from an H. pylori infection.
There are various tests and procedures that can be used to establish whether you have an H. pylori infection. Screening tests are crucial for the detection of bacteria. Repeat clearance testing after initial treatment is useful to ensure the bacteria is completely eradicated. H. pylori diagnostic tests may include a blood test, urea-breath test, an upper endoscopy exam, and a simple stool exam.
There are two distinct types of stool tests:
During this particular test, also referred to as a urea-breath test, the patient swallows a pill, pudding, or liquid that features tagged molecules of a carbon. If you are infected with H. pylori, the carbon will be released when the solution comes into contact with the bacteria in your stomach. Bearing in mind that your system absorbs the carbon, your body releases it when you exhale. To measure the release of carbon, you blow into a bag and your doctor uses special equipment to detect the carbon molecules. The level of the carbon hence will correlate with the amount of bacteria in the stomach.
A doctor may also carry out a scope test to establish whether you have an infection with H. pylori. This test is also called the upper endoscopy examination. During this test, your doctor will offer you sedative medication that helps you relax. After that, your doctor will insert a long, highly flexible device equipped with a camera into your throat through your stomach and duodenum. This device allows your doctor to view any issues in your upper digestive tract. To screen for H. pylori, your doctor will usually extract a tissue sample during the endoscopic procedure to examine for the presence of the bacteria.
Although this particular test is slightly more invasive, it is conclusive and effective in screening for H pylori infection. It can also be conducted to help diagnose other digestive issues besides H. pylori infection.
Thankfully, H. pylori infection is a very treatable condition. It is often treated using at least two different courses of antibiotic medications, which are taken at the same time. This is to prevent H. pylori from developing a resistance to one particular antibiotic.
The available treatment options for an H. pylori infection include:
With proper treatment and management, H. pylori infection can easily be treated. Furthermore, if successfully treated, your risk of getting peptic ulcers will significantly reduce. However, a H. pylori infection can potentially recur after initial treatment if you fail to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. Make sure you finish your medication, even if your symptoms improve before the course of the treatment is completed.
Most people suffering from H. pylori infection will never exhibit any symptoms. But it is highly recommended that you schedule an appointment with a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
Currently, there is no vaccine for H. pylori.
However, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent its transmission and spread, including:
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