Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori) Infection – Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

Helicobacter pylori infection which is also known as H. pylori infection occurs when the bacteria known as helicobacter pylori causes an infection to the lining of the digestive tract.

Helicobacter pylori in itself are harmless, however, when they come in contact with the lining of the digestive tract, they cause sores and injuries as well as inflammation all leading to the formation of ulcers.

Mostly, the helicobacter pylori infection begins during the patient’s childhood years. Worldwide, helicobacter pylori have been seen to be the cause of all kinds of ulcers ranging from peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and so on.

H.pylori causes the swelling or inflammation of the gastric lining by invading the lining of the stomach and introducing a dangerous toxin called cytotoxin which is also known as vacuolating cytotoxin A which in turn leads to gastritis and as such causes ulcer formation.

Research has shown that more than 50% of the world population is infected with this kind of bacteria and as such makes the disease a very common infection. Helicobacter pylori is a spiral-shaped bacteria.

Generally, the stomach contact HCL which makes it an uncomfortable environment for bacteria, however, helicobacter pylori produces an enzyme called urease which makes it possible for them to survive under the harsh environmental conditions that the stomach provides.

The urease enzyme produced by this bacteria reacts with urea which is found in the body and as such produces ammonia which in turn neutralizes the HCL provided by the stomach and as such enable the bacteria to survive within the tissues and the linings of the stomach.

Many people live with this infection but may not know or be aware of it. This is because they most times don’t get sick unto the infection becomes quite severe and when this occurs, the injury caused to the lining of the digestive tract has become very severe.

Causes

The exact cause of helicobacter pylori infection is not exactly known. However, this infection is termed to be contagious. This means that it can be passed fro one person to another through saliva, faeces, urine or via vomit. This infection can also be spread through contaminated food and water.

Although Helicobacter pylori have been seen to affect people from childhood, it can also be noted that there are some certain living conditions that could contribute to the spread of this infection. These risk factors include:

1. Living in Crowded places

Having to live in a crowded place causes and promotes the spread of certain infections and helicobacter pylori infection isn’t left out. If you do share a home with too many people in it, if you do drink the same water and eat the same food with so many people under one roof, there is a huge tendency for you to become infected with helicobacter pylori infection.

This is because, as it has been established earlier, helicobacter pylori is a very infectious disease and it is easily communicable fro, one person to another and as such, having to live in a crowded place increases your chances of contracting this infection.

2. Lack of a clean source of water supply

One of the easiest ways in which the infection helicobacter pylori can be spread is via dirty water. Once there is no clean source of water supply around where a person stays, it becomes easier for the disease to be shared.

Hence to reduce the risk of developing helicobacter pylori, one must ensure that he or she has a clean source of water supply in the house.

3. Living in an underdeveloped or a developing country

Those who are found living in third world countries, as well as those who stay in developing countries, have been seen to develop this infection quicker than those who stay in well-developed countries.

This is because crowded and unsanitary places are found within these countries and these increase the chances of developing this disease.

4. Living with someone who already has the helicobacter pylori infection

Having to live with someone who has the infection, sharing of utensils and other personal items with the infected person can increase the chances of an uninfected person developing this infection.

5. Lack of proper hygiene

Generally, bacteria and other microorganisms live in dirty areas as this provides them with the opportunity to build their colonies there. If you lack personal hygiene, it is very possible for any kind of bacteria to build their colonies around you and part of these bacteria can be helicobacter pylori.

Symptoms

Majority of people living with helicobacter pylori mostly don’t have any symptoms. Although there are no clear reasons as to why this occurs, however, researchers have speculated that some people are born with just enough resistance that is enough to withstand this infection.

However, there are some people who do experience signs and symptoms and some of these symptoms include:

  1. Severe burning pain or an ache around your abdominal region
  2. Abdominal pains that tend to worsen when your stomach is empty.
  3. Nauseous feelings as well as the tendency to vomit
  4. Frequent burping
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Bloating
  7. Unintentional weight loss

Complications

There are certain conditions and complications that are associated with helicobacter pylori infection. These complications are as a result of the severity of the infection and they include:

1. Ulcers

Ulcers are caused when there is damage to the lining of the digestive tract. Helicobacter pylori have the tendency to damage the lining of the stomach as well as the duodenum (which is a part of the small intestine).

They damage the lining of the digestive tract by introducing a dangerous and harmful toxin called vacuolating cytotoxin A which causes inflammation and eventually a tear in the lining of the stomach.

This tear will eventually allow the acid found within the stomach to cause an open sore in the stomach and/or the duodenum hence causing gastric or peptic ulcers as the case may be.

Research has shown that about 10% of people who have the helicobacter pylori infection go on to develop either peptic or gastric ulcers depending on the location of the tear.

2. Inflammation of the lining of the stomach

Helicobacter pylori infection can cause irritation around the stomach lining cause it to swell and become inflamed and as such causing gastritis.

3. In extreme cases, helicobacter pylori have been seen to cause some certain types of stomach cancer which can prove to become deadly as they progress.

Prevention

Preventing helicobacter pylori can be prevented by frequent screening and tests. In some parts of the world where helicobacter pylori infection becomes prevalent and its complications become very common, doctors are advised to perform a comprehensive checkup on not only the sick people but as well as the ones who are healthy especially family members of those who have the infection.

It is important to have the helicobacter pylori screening if you know that you fall within any of the risk factors which has been listed above. Early detection of this infection can prevent it from quickly developing into ulcers, gastritis or stomach cancers.

It is also important for you to note that in order to avoid developing peptic or gastric ulcers, it is also vital for you to avoid the following:

1. Alcohol: Alcohol enables the bacteria to speed up its operations as well as it increases the acid content of your stomach and as such cause the acid to keep eating at your stomach lining.

2. Caffeine: Caffeine is very dangerous for people who are living with helicobacter infections as it may cause them to develop ulcers.

3. Stress: Being stressed out can also increase your chances of developing ulcers.

4. Skipping meals: Whenever you skip meals, it allows the acid to eat directly on the stomach lining and not on the food content which is supposed to be present within your stomach.

5. Avoid using NSAIDs: Instead, use acetaminophen. This is because NSAIDs causes the stomach lining to further break them down giving room for more acid to flow into the walls of the stomach.

Sources;

  1. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection; Mayoclinic
  2. Who is at risk for H. pylori infection; Healthline
  3. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection definition and facts; Medicinenet
  4. Peptic ulcers (stomach ulcers). (2014). NIDDK
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