Gastric Pain: Helicobacter Pylori Infection

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What is Helicobacter pylori?

Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) is a bacteria that is found in the stomach. There are many people in Asia including children with H pylori infection. In some patients, H pylori can cause stomach or gastric pain due to the following reasons:

  • The H pylori can cause inflammation of the stomach lining causing gastritis
  • It can also lead to stomach ulcers (or sores) and duodenal ulcers. The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine. Gastritis and ulcers may lead to bleeding and anaemia.
  • In a small minority, it can cause stomach cancer (typically in adult patients)

What are the symptoms of Helicobacter pylori infection?

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling full easily after eating only small amount
  • Feeling more tired likely from anaemia
  • Stools colour changing to dark or black-colour

Are there any investigations for Helicobacter pylori infection?

Yes, the diagnosis can be confirmed with the following tests:

  • Breath test
  • Stool test
  • Blood test including checking for complications.

Patients with any of the above test positive will need a proper evaluation with upper endoscopy. An upper endoscopy is a procedure that allows the gastroenterologist to look at the inside lining of the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum to assess for any inflammation or ulcers. The endoscopist will also take biopsies (small piece of tissue) from the lining of the stomach and duodenum to analyse under the microscope.

What are the treatments available for H pylori?

Children will be started on combination of antibiotics and medications to relieve acid in the stomach.

It is important to treat H pylori infection to help the gastric inflammation and ulcers to heal and reduce the risks of bleeding. H pylori may also cause stomach cancer in a small minority of patients although mostly in adult patients.