Helicobacter pylori is a common occupant of the human gastrointestinal tract. H. pylori overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract is a contributor to the formation of gastric ulcers, gastric cancer, and a unique lymphoma involving the gut mucosa (mucosal-associated lymphatic tissue lymphoma).
- Ulcers – H. pylori can damage the protective lining of your stomach and small intestine. This can allow stomach acid to create an open sore (ulcer). About 10 percent of people with H. pylori will develop an ulcer.
- Gastritis – Inflammation of the stomach lining. H. pylori infection can irritate your stomach, causing inflammation.
- Stomach cancer. H. pylori infection is a strong risk factor for certain types of stomach cancer.
Most people with H. pylori infection will never have any signs or symptoms. It’s not clear why this is, but some people may be born with more resistance to the harmful effects of H. pylori. When signs or symptoms do occur with H. pylori infection, they may include:
- An ache or burning pain in your abdomen
- Abdominal pain that’s worse when your stomach is empty
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent belching or burping
- Unintentional weight loss
Extragastric conditions, such as rashes, joint pain, and autoimmune thrombocytopenia, and eye inflammation (uveitis), have also been linked to H. pylori overgrowth.
Available noninvasive tests include C-urea breath test (UBT), serology, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of Helicobacter DNA, and detection of Helicobacter stool antigen (HpSA). There are more invasive tests, however, many investigators and practitioners believe the UBT is the best noninvasive test with a sensitivity and specificity ranging from 80% to 100%.