Understanding H.pylori: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Patients who suffer from recurrent stomach upsets are likely to be suffering from H. Pylori infection. It is a common condition that is known to cause moderate to severe digestive complaints like pain in the abdomen, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and sour eructation. 

In some patients, the symptoms of H. Pylori infection are so severe that they start interfering with their routine activities. Also, if not managed properly, H. Pylori infection may continue to erode the delicate mucosa of the stomach causing life-threatening consequences. 

Hence, there is a need to understand what H. Pylori infection means, why it occurs, and the best ways to manage it. 

Here is a brief discussion about H. Pylori, its risk factors, causes, symptoms, and the best ways for deriving relief from this condition. 

What is H. Pylori?

H. Pylori (or Helicobacter pylori) is a type of bacteria that are specifically known to infect the inner mucosal lining of the stomach and cause ulceration. [1]

These bacteria usually enter the body through foods and live in the stomach and other parts of the digestive tract. After several months to years, H. pylori cause sores, known as ulcers, in the mucosa of the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine. If not treated in a timely manner, the infection may progress further leading to stomach cancer.

This marks the need to detect H. pylori infection and seek appropriate treatment to clear it in a safe and effective manner.

H. Pylori: Major Cause of Peptic Ulcers

H. Pylori is a major cause of peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcer refers to a condition caused due to ulceration in the mucosa of the stomach and intestine. 

For several decades, doctors and scientists believed that peptic ulcers are caused due to excessive intake of spicy foods, smoking, mental stress, and other lifestyle habits. However, it was in 1982 that H. pylori was discovered to be the major cause of peptic ulcers in most patients. 

When H. pylori bacteria enter the body, they attack the stomach mucosa, which usually protects the stomach from the acidic secretions produced to digest food. Once the bacteria have caused enough damage, the stomach acid can then pass through the lining, eroding deeper into the mucosa leading to the development of ulcers. 

The ulcers can cause severe symptoms like heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. They may also bleed, and keep the food from moving through the digestive tract.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors for H. Pylori Infection?


Most patients get H. pylori during childhood, though the infection can begin in adulthood too. The bacteria reside in the body for several years before the symptoms start to become evident. [2]

Children and young adults are more likely to develop H. pylori infections. The higher prevalence in children could be attributed to the lack of proper hygiene. 

  1. pylori usually enter the body through the contaminated food, water, and utensils. It is more common in communities and countries that lack clean water facilities or efficient sewage systems. The bacteria may also enter the body due to the direct contact with the body fluids of infected people such as saliva, vomit, and stool. [3] [4]

The environmental conditions such as living in overcrowded places and sharing a house with someone who has contracted this infection can also influence the risk of H. pylori. 

What are the Symptoms of H.Pylori Infection?

The most common symptom of this condition is dull aching or burning pain in the stomach.  The pain often comes and goes, though it is usually felt the most when the stomach is empty, such as in the middle of the night and between meals. [5]

The pain and burning sensation may last for a few minutes or several hours. Patients usually feel better after eating food, drinking milk, or taking an antacid.

The other common signs of H. Pylori infection and peptic ulcers include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Peptic ulcers formed in the stomach and duodenum due to H. Pylori infection can bleed into the stomach or intestine putting you at a risk of serious complications. Hence, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of bleeding ulcers and seek immediate medical help. 

Here are some symptoms that may occur due to the bleeding from peptic ulcers:

  • Severe burning sensation and pain in the stomach 
  • Passing stool that is blood-stained, black, or dark red
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness 
  • Paleness of the skin 
  • Fainting
  • Frequent Vomiting 
  • Hemoptysis (blood in vomit)
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  1. pylori infection, if not managed properly can cause stomach cancer. Patients with stomach cancer may experience more severe symptoms of peptic ulcers in the initial few weeks to months. [6]

However, over time, they may notice additional symptoms such as:

  • Recurrent stomach pain 
  • Swelling in the abdomen 
  • Continuous nausea
  • Feeling of fullness in the stomach after eating just a small amount
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Early diagnosis of H. pylori infection and seeking the right treatment could provide lasting relief from these symptoms and restore healthy functions of the stomach and intestine. 

How is H. Pylori Infection Diagnosed?

Patients who experience the symptoms of stomach upsets frequently may need to get tested for this infection. 

  1. pylori can be detected with the help of diagnostic tools described below:
  • Blood test: A small amount of your blood sample can be sent to a laboratory to check for the presence of antibodies to H. pylori.
  • Stool test: A sample of stool can be sent to a laboratory for a stool antigen test and a stool culture test to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Breath test: The urea breath test can be performed to check for the abnormal levels of carbon dioxide in the air breathed out. An abnormal level of carbon dioxide in the exhaled air could be a sign of this infection. 

An endoscopy is often recommended to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of H. pylori infection, when the results of the other tests are not conclusive. An endoscopy allows the physician to look at the esophagus, stomach lining, and the initial part of the small intestine for the presence of ulceration or any other signs of H. pylori infection.

Complications of H. Pylori Infection

H. pylori infection is known to cause peptic ulcers. Moreover, the infection or the ulcer itself may lead to more serious complications such as: [7]

  • Internal bleeding
  • Perforation of the gastric mucosa 
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Peritonitis
  • Stomach cancer

This emphasizes the need to detect H. pylori infection and seek proper treatment to avoid the complications. 


[1] Helicobacter pylori infection impairs chaperone-assisted maturation of Na-K-ATPase in gastric epithelium

[2] Helicobacter pylori

[3] Role of food in environmental transmission of Helicobacter pylori

[4] Helicobacter Pylori

[5] H. pylori infection and extra-gastroduodenal diseases

[6] New fecal test for non-invasive Helicobacter pylori detection: A diagnostic accuracy study

[7] Risk Factors and Incidence of Gastric Cancer After Detection of Helicobacter pylori Infection: A Large Cohort Study


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