How serious is a H. pylori infection?
H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) is a common type of bacteria that grows in the digestive tract and can damage the stomach’s protective lining. Untreated, an infection can lead to complications.
H. pylori infection
H. pylori infections are not regarded as dangerous and are usually resolved easily with antibiotics. They are also very common – it is estimated that around two thirds of the world’s population have one, often since childhood.
This bacteria is most often transmitted via contaminated food or water, or from person-to-person (saliva, vomit, or stool). Gradually, fewer people are getting it as more of the world gets access to clean water and sanitation. With good health habits – washing produce and hands and cooking food thoroughly – you can protect yourself and your children from H. pylori.
H. pylori infections are usually harmless and display no symptoms. Nevertheless, in some people it can lead to diseases, including ulcers. Symptoms of a peptic ulcer from H. pylori include:
- Dull or burning stomach pain (especially on an empty stomach)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Poor appetite
H. pylori infections may produce an inflammatory stomach condition known as gastritis, which is not deemed serious. In addition, most peptic, duodenal and gastric ulcers are caused by H. pylori. If left untreated, such ulcers may produce digestive bleeding or stenosis, and require endoscopic intervention.
While rare, stomach cancer (adenocarcinoma and MALT lymphoma) is also an increased risk for people with H. pylori.
Nevertheless, many of the symptoms of stomach cancer, ulcers, and other diseases associated with H. pylori can be caused by other issues. It is best to see a doctor if you experience any symptoms or concern.
Get immediate medical attention if you experience:
- Trouble swallowing
- Blood in the stool
- Black-coloured stool or vomit