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H. pylori (Heliobacter pylori, pronounced Hel-ee-koh-BAK-ter Pie-LORE-ee) is a type of bacteria that infects your stomach.
It can damage the tissue in your stomach and the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum). This can cause redness and soreness (inflammation). In some cases it can also cause painful sores called peptic ulcers in your upper digestive tract.
H. pylori is common. Many people have it. Most people who have it won’t get ulcers or show any symptoms. But it is a main cause of ulcers.
H. pylori attacks the lining that protects your stomach. The bacteria makes an enzyme called urease. This enzyme makes your stomach acids less acidic (neutralizes them). This weakens your stomach’s lining.
Your stomach cells then have greater risk of being hurt by acid and pepsin, strong digestive fluids. That can lead to sores or ulcers in your stomach or duodenum.
The H. pylori bacteria can also stick to stomach cells. Your stomach can’t protect itself very well. The area gets red and swollen (inflamed).
H. pylori can also get the stomach to make more acid. Health experts don’t fully understand how.
Health experts don’t know for sure how H. pylori infection is spread. They believe the germs can be passed from person to person by mouth, such as by kissing.
It may also be passed by having contact with vomit or stool. This may happen if you:
You may be at greater risk for H. pylori infection because of:
Most people first get the bacteria when they are children, but adults can get it too.
Most people have the bacteria for years without knowing it because they don’t have any symptoms. Experts don’t know why.
You may have redness and swelling (inflammation) in your stomach lining. This is called gastritis.
You may get sores or peptic ulcers in your stomach or the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). Ulcer symptoms may include belly or abdominal pain, which can:
Other symptoms of an ulcer may include:
The symptoms of ulcers may look like other health problems. Always see your health care provider to be sure.
Your health care provider will look at your past health and give you a physical exam. He or she may also use other tests, including:
Your health care provider will create a care plan for you based on:
Your health care provider may have you take medicine that kills bacteria (antibiotics).
Other medicines may include:
If you are infected with the bacteria you can get a painful sore called a peptic ulcer. These sores form in your upper digestive tract.
A very bad ulcer can wear away your stomach lining. It can also cause problems such as:
Health experts don’t know for sure how the bacteria passes from person to person. But having good health habits (hygiene) can help keep you safe. These habits include:
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