What is H. pylori?
Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori) is a bacteria that can infect the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). If left untreated, H. pylori bacteria can cause gastritis (an inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining) and duodenal or gastric ulcers. In addition, infection with H. pylori increases the risk of other diseases and is also a risk factor for gastric cancer.
Accurate detection of H. pylori is the first step toward curing stomach and intestinal ulcers, and preventing the development of more serious gastrointestinal problems.
During the breath test, you swallow a pill, liquid or pudding that contains tagged carbon molecules. If you have an H. pylori infection, carbon is released when the solution is broken down in your stomach.
Your body absorbs the carbon and expels it when you exhale. You exhale into a bag, and your doctor uses a special device to detect the carbon molecules.
Acid-suppressing drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) and antibiotics can interfere with the accuracy of this test. Your doctor will ask you to stop taking those medications for a week or two weeks before you have the test. This test is available for adults and children.
- H. pylori infections are usually treated with at least two different antibiotics at once, to help prevent the bacteria from developing a resistance to one particular antibiotic. Your doctor also will prescribe or recommend an acid-suppressing drug, to help your stomach lining heal.
- One month after antibiotic treatment your doctor might order a repeat breath test to make sure the infection has been cured.
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