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Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
is a type of bacteria that causes an infection in the lining of your stomach and upper intestine. People are usually infected with the bacteria as children, but may not have symptoms until they are adults. It may be spread by drinking dirty water or eating food that is not clean or cooked well.
Signs and symptoms of an H. pylori infection:
Most people who are infected with H. pylori never have symptoms. If you do, your symptoms may come and go and last for minutes or hours. You may feel better for a short time after you eat food or take medicine. You may have any of the following:
- Dull or burning pain in your stomach or throat
- Nausea, vomiting, bloating, or burping
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Pain at night or with an empty stomach
Seek care immediately if:
- You have bloody bowel movements, bloody vomit, or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
- You have sudden, sharp stomach pain that does not go away or spreads to your back.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
- You lose weight without trying.
- You feel full after eating only a small amount of food.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Do not take any medicine that has aspirin or ibuprofen in it. These medicines can cause stomach bleeding. You may need any of the following:
- Antibiotics help kill the bacteria. You may need to take this medicine for 10 to 14 days. Your healthcare provider will prescribe 2 antibiotics at the same time.
- Antiulcer medicines help decrease the amount of acid that is normally made by the stomach. These help heal or prevent ulcers.
- Bismuth is a liquid or tablet that may be used to decrease heartburn, upset stomach, or diarrhea. It may also decrease swelling in your stomach and help kill the bacteria if other medicines do not work. It also protects ulcers from stomach acid so they can heal.
Manage or prevent an H. pylori infection:
- Wash your hands well with soap and warm water. Clean your hands before you eat and after you use the bathroom.
- Handle food properly. Rinse food well before you cook or eat it. Cook food all the way through. Proper handling will help kill any bacteria that may be on your food.
- Drink clean water from a safe source. Only drink water that has been filtered or purified.
- Ask about NSAIDs. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly. Your healthcare provider may tell you to avoid these medicines because they can make your symptoms worse.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can worsen your symptoms and also cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may worsen your symptoms of heartburn.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
You may need more tests after treatment to see if your infection is gone. You may also need different antibiotics to kill the infection. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.