Helicobacter pylori: By which symptoms you recognize an infection and everything about the right treatment.
What is a Helicobacter infection?
Helicobacter bacteria – more precisely "Helicobacter pylori" – are germs that colonize the stomach lining and intestines and can cause various diseases there. People often become infected with the stomach bacteria at an early age – Helicobacter pylori infections (also known as "HP infections") can already be detected in children.
It is not completely clear how the stomach germ is transmitted (e.g. through saliva, stool or vomit) and where the infection originates in each case in those affected. But one thing is certain: Helicobacter pylori is contagious. Transmissible from person to person. It is estimated that one in two people over 60 is infected. Often, the infection with the bacterium leads to
gastritis and stomach or small intestine ulcers (ulcer).
Helicobacter infection: symptoms
A Helicobacter infection cannot always be clearly recognized as a layperson. However, these symptoms are typical for a colonization with Helicobacter pylori and the subsequent diseases such as gastritis, gastric ulcer or duodenal ulcer:
– Pain in the upper abdomen – Nausea – Loss of appetite – Belching – Weight loss – Anemia – Fatigue
Flatulence and diarrhea can also occur, but are rather rare. Sometimes stomach ulcers cause no symptoms at all -. Are then only discovered by chance during another examination.
Helicobacter pylori infection: How the doctor makes the diagnosis
If the family doctor suspects his patient may have gastritis or a stomach ulcer, he will refer him to a Gastroenterologist refer. This is a specialist in diseases of the digestive tract, who can perform special tests. There are various Helicobacter pylori tests that can be used to indirectly and directly detect colonization of the mucous membrane with the stomach germ:
– A Blood test Reveals anemia and possibly elevated levels of inflammation. This is not yet proof of an infection, but it shows that something is wrong. – A Ultrasound examination of the abdomen helps to exclude other physical causes for the complaints. – A Gastroscopy, in which the doctor looks very closely at the stomach lining from the inside with a camera, shows changes in the mucous membrane due to the Helicobacter infection. The doctor uses a camera mounted on a flexible tube that the physician inserts through the mouth into the stomach to see whether the mucous membrane is merely irritated or whether a stomach ulcer is already present. – A Breath test, after the patient has drunk a special solution, proves the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach. – A Stool test A test for Helicobacter pylori can complement the examination and confirm the diagnosis.
Helicobacter test at the doctor: This is how it works
Many patients wonder which doctor can perform Helicobacter tests such as the breath test. First of all, if you have complaints with your stomach, as mentioned above, it makes sense to see your family doctor. Able to narrow the diagnosis and refer to a gastroenterologist if a Helicobacter pylori infection is suspected. The doctor then carries out various Helicobacter tests, which can be completed quickly and are painless for the patient painless for the patient are:
– For the Breath test the patient drinks a solution containing a specially labeled 13C-urea. The enzyme urease, which the Helicobacter pylori bacteria produce in the stomach, breaks down the urea in the stomach so that 13C-labeled carbon dioxide can be measured in the exhaled air 30 minutes later. This is enough evidence that the bacterium must colonize the stomach: If the germ does not live there, nothing can be measured in the breath analysis – because the enzyme urease is not present. – For the Stool test The patient must provide the doctor with a stool sample about the size of a pea. This is then examined in the laboratory for the germ. Today, tests based on monoclonal antibodies (ELISA) are common and very reliable. The biotechnologically produced proteins combine with the appropriate antigen from the stool sample when brought together – which is considered positive evidence of the germ.
The doctor decides which Helicobacter tests to use. In most cases, it is useful to perform more than one method of examination to confirm the diagnosis.
Helicobacter infection: treatment
In the case of a proven Helicobacter infection, the most effective therapy is treatment with antibiotics. Two different means – usually the broad-spectrum antibiotic amoxicillin in combination with the macrolide antibiotic clarithromycin – are common to eradicate the germ (in technical language: "eradication"). In addition, the doctor often prescribes a so-called proton pump inhibitor – this is a drug that protects the stomach lining during treatment so that it can recover better.
Helicobacter pylori treatment with antibiotics helps the vast majority of patients well and is After one week endured. The usual side effects of antibiotic therapy may occur temporarily as side effects: Abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence. However, they disappear on their own in the days following the treatment.
Some patients feel the need to treat their Helicobacter infection "naturally" and without antibiotics. You should know: It is with the help of diet or home remedies not possible, To get rid of the stomach germ altogether. Broccoli, garlic, ginger, citrus fruits and onions don't "taste" particularly good to the bacteria on the mucosa – but they can't be driven away completely with the usual portions, so the inflammation is likely to flare up again and again, causing lasting damage to the mucosa.
If sufferers want to do their stomach some good through diet, they should avoid foods known to further irritate the damaged mucosa: Coffee and spicy food. People with gastritis should also avoid alcohol to protect the stomach.
Helicobacter infection: consequences
Sooner or later, a colonization of the gastric mucosa with Helicobacter pylori will cause various diseases of the digestive tract. This is due to the fact that the bacterium produces a protein that interferes with the mucous membrane's own protection against gastric acid. Often, as a result of the infection, there is an inflammation of the gastric mucosa (gastritis). In the long term, however, a gastric ulcer or an ulcer of the small intestine can also develop. This is not a cancer, but an Wound in the mucosa, which heals only with difficulty.
If left untreated, ulcers in the gastric and intestinal mucosa cause after some time Complications: For example, bleeding may occur from the wound, and in the case of deep wounds, the stomach may rupture, resulting in peritonitis. In this case there is danger to life! It is therefore important that those affected do not ignore typical symptoms of gastritis and have them clarified by a doctor in good time.
Important to know: Helicobacter pylori infection is not harmless, but is considered the most important Risk factor for stomach cancer. According to experts, infected persons have a two- to threefold increased risk for the malignant disease compared to non-infected persons. It is therefore all the more important not to wait too long before visiting the doctor in the event of upper abdominal complaints.