Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) (cont.)
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When should you seek medical care for H. pylori?
It is always appropriate to see your health-care professional for abdominal pain. Symptoms of diseases of many organs in the abdomen can be upper abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. For example, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, and kidney ailments may have abdominal pain as the presenting symptom. Upper abdominal pain and nausea may be an atypical presentation of angina, or pain from coronary artery disease.
Vomiting blood or passing black, tarry, or bloody stools are medical emergencies and should not be ignored. Accessing care at an emergency department or by activating the emergency medical system (call 911 if available) is appropriate. Sudden, severe pain is also an indication to seek urgent or emergent care.
Which specialties of doctors treat H. pylori infections?
H. pylori infection may be treated by primary care providers including internists and family medicine specialists. Specialists in gastrointestinal diseases, known as gastroenterologists, often treat patients with H. pylori infection.
What tests diagnose H. pylori?
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Testing for the H. pylori infection may be performed on blood, stool, or breath samples. Also, biopsies or small bits of tissue from the lining of the gastrointestinal tract obtained during endoscopy can be tested for the presence of H. pylori.
Usually this testing is done after the diagnosis of gastritis or ulcer is made. Diagnosis depends upon the health care practitioner taking a patient history and asking specific questions. Aside from the infection, there are other, lifestyle-related causes of gastritis and ulcers including smoking, alcohol consumption, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication use, for example, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve).
Physical examination will yield more information regarding the diagnosis of abdominal pain. In addition to examining the abdomen, a rectal examination may be performed to test for blood in the stool.
In addition to testing to testing for the presence of the H. pylori bacteria, other blood tests may be performed to screen for anemia (low red blood cell count) and other diseases. A urine sample may be taken to look for infection.
If there is a concern that an ulcer is present, arrangements may be made for a consultation with a gastroenterologist and possible endoscopy, in which the gastroenterologist uses a thin tube containing a camera to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.
Alternatively, an upper GI series may be performed to look for an ulcer. In this test, X-rays of the abdomen are taken after the patient swallows barium or another type of contrast material. If a gastric ulcer is found, endoscopy is usually recommended, since some ulcers have the potential to become cancerous. Ulcers in the duodenum typically do not have this potential.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/12/2016
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