Learning about H. pylori

Find answers to common questions.


What is H. pylori?

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that is found almost everywhere around us. When H. Pylori infects the stomach lining it can produce symptoms, ulcers and in rare cases even stomach cancer.

Is H. pylori contagious?

This bacterium is usually not thought to be contagious (able to make others sick). You're unlikely to pass it on to someone else by just direct contact. Usually you get H. Pylori by eating contaminated food or food that is not clean. 

Is H. pylori common in patients with ulcers? 

H. pylori are one of the leading causes of ulcers, but there are many other causes of ulcers. H. pylori infection and H. pylori-related ulcers are more common in the developing world.


What are the symptoms of H. pylori?

H. pylori doesn't usually have symptoms. When symptoms do happen, they can be abdominal discomfort (in the stomach) of an unknown source as well as belching (burping) and bloating. H. Pylori can cause serious pain from ulcers and even bleeding, but that's not common. 


How is H. pylori found?

There are several tests that can be used to find H. pylori: 

  • Blood
  • Stool
  • Breath testing
  • Stomach biopsies (which we do at the time of an upper endoscopy, or when a doctor uses a device on a long thin tube to see inside the body)

How do I take care of H. pylori?

We take care of H. pylori with a combination of antibiotics and an acid-blocking medicine like omeprazole (Prilosec). The combination of medicine is decided on a case-by-case basis.

What happens after I take the medicine?

In most cases, a test is done after you take the medicine to make sure that you no longer have H. pylori. This is usually a simple stool test. The stool test is obtained about four weeks after you take the medicine. 

We do this because the medications that are used to take care of H. pylori can cause problems with the stool test and cause it to be falsely negative.

What should I do so I don't get it again?

Having H. pylori more than once is not common. Good hand washing practices are probably the best way to make sure you don't get it again.

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.