Helicobacter pylori gastritis is a primary food-borne condition that has a direct influence on the gastrointestinal health of patients. Find out more about the disorder including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, complications and treatment options.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Definition
It is a chronic inflammation or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, which is a sign of an underlying bacterial infection. It is the most common form of gastritis that occurs worldwide. The ailment is also called H. pylori Gastritis.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Incidence
The condition accounts for 50% of the world population. Approximately, 30% of the adult population in the United States is infected with H. pylori.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Symptoms
Most individuals affected with the bacterial condition do not exhibit any symptoms. Some patients display mild symptoms that are often difficult to detect, owing to their sudden disappearance. Chronically infected patients usually exhibit health problems like:
Picture 1 – Helicobacter pylori gastritis
- Minor belching
- Nausea and vomiting
- Acute pain or discomfort in the abdomen
- Low red blood cell count
- Passing of black or tarry stools
- Poor appetite
- Constant feeling of abdominal fullness
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Causes
The bacterium responsible for causing stomach inflammation or gastritis is called Helicobacter pylori – a gram-negative bacterium that lives in the stomach. The bacteria attack the gastric mucosal lining that shields the stomach as well as duodenum and secretes mucus to facilitate the smooth movement of food during digestion. H. pylori infection is majorly acquired from contaminated food and water. The condition could be very well contagious as the bacteria are capable of getting transmitted from individual to individual. The exact mechanism of transmission however, remains unclear. Vac-A, a cytotoxin produced by the bacteria, triggers an inflammatory response in the stomach. In addition to this chemical, stomach acids are also known to stimulate the bacteria. This in turn increases H. pylori invasion of the stomach lining, causing acute inflammation and corrosion of the mucosal tissues. The possibility of bacterial colonization has not yet been proved by medical investigators. However, these bacteria may adapt in such a way as to begin colonizing humans instead of infecting them. In this way, the condition can spread in larger numbers through ordinary day-to-day contact without causing any infection in the initial stage. A few medical experts have discovered that these bacteria can disrupt and re-arrange the normal lining of the stomach; which is a common sign of a possible pre-cancerous change. The frequency of occurrence of this condition is significantly higher in individuals who live in crowded conditions with poor hygiene.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Diagnosis
The tests and exams that are deemed as appropriate for the diagnosis of this condition commonly include:
Antibodies produced in response to H. pylori infection can easily be detected and measured in the blood samples. It is the fastest and most effective method to diagnose the disorder.
Urea breath test
It is a safe as well as better technique to accurately detect the presence of H. pylori in the stomach. The test is based upon the ability of the bacteria to break down excess urea- a chemical compound found in urine, into carbon dioxide. The released gas is later absorbed across the stomach lining and into the blood. It is then excreted from the lungs during exhalation. In this procedure, patients are made to swallow a urea capsule, containing an isotope of carbon. The samples of exhaled breath that are collected after the test reveal excessive amount of carbon dioxide, indicating the breakdown of urea in the presence of H. pylori.
Stool antigen test
The fecal sample of an affected patient may normally contain antigens against H. pylori that help in diagnosing the condition rapidly.
The procedure involves insertion of endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light fitted at one of its end) to thoroughly examine the upper gastrointestinal tract. Special instruments are also attached to the endoscope in order to conduct gastric tissue biopsy in patients with suspected ulcers. The collected sample is then placed on a slide, which contains urea. Any change in color around the test sample is a sign of urea disintegration by the bacteria. Biopsy cultures are rarely conducted, owing to the availability of easier tests.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Treatment
The bacteria can develop resistance to a host of antibiotics due to which elimination of the infection becomes quite challenging to the healthcare providers. A combination of two or more antibiotics is generally administered to the patients for complete eradication of the bacteria. These medications have powerful anti-H. pylori effects and ensure faster recovery. However, medical experts have found that the condition cannot be completely cured by using this combination therapy. This is because the microorganisms can easily counteract the effects of the antibiotics. Some of these combination medications include:
- Bismuth and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- Metronidazole, PPI, tetracycline and bismuth subsalicylate
- Amoxicillin, PPI and clarithromycin
Urea breath test, blood test and stool antigen test are generally conducted post-treatment to check the progress of patients. The eradication of H. pylori determines the impact of the various treatment interventions implied so far on the patients.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Complications
In the absence of timely treatment, patients can develop serious complications like:
- Stomach cancer
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Prevention
H. pylori infection or colonization can be prevented with the use of prophylactic or therapeutic vaccines. Attempts are being made by many clinical researchers to use H. pylori antigens like CagA, HP-NAP, urease and HspA either individually or in several combinations for effective results. Presently, however, there are no commercially available vaccines that can inhibit the occurrence of the bacterial infection in a safe manner. Individuals who are at risk of developing this condition must adopt the following preventive methods:
Picture 2 – Helicobacter pylori gastritis Image
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol
- Replace Acetaminophen with aspirin for pain suppression
- Avoid consuming caffeinated coffee before having a meal
- Avoid drinking or using contaminated water
- Reduce stress
- Rinse hands with soap water
Helicobacter pylori gastritis Prognosis
Severe cases of H. pylori infection have shown good prognosis after the completion of treatment. Patients with mild symptoms have successfully recovered. The mortality rate is higher for those who have reached the last stage of infection and suffering with other health complications.
Helicobacter pylori gastritis is a contagious disorder, and its rate of dispersion is potentially higher in areas devoid of proper sanitation. It can only be prevented by incorporating certain hygienic practices as these are directly correlated to the management of food-borne illness. Patients with symptoms suggestive of H. pylori gastritis must be immediately taken to a physician for early treatment.