How to Detect Helicobacter Pylori

Three Methods:Looking for SymptomsGetting Tests DoneGetting an Endoscopy

You've got pain: stomach pain with gas, bloating, and burning, and your doctor thinks it could be due to a Helicobacter pylori infection. H. pylori is a bacteria that lives in the gut, and it's linked to a wide range of health issues, even ulcers and stomach cancer.[1]Treating H. pylori is easy; but first, you have to detect it.[2]

Method 1
Looking for Symptoms

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    Look for common gastrointestinal symptoms. These can include nausea, excessive burping, bloating, and abdominal pain that worsens on an empty stomach. Together these can be indicators that you might have H. pylori. However, most people don’t experience any symptoms from H. pylori.[3] If you don’t have symptoms, you shouldn’t worry about H. pylori.[4]
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    Check for any changes in appetite or unusual weight loss. [5] If you haven’t been trying to lose weight and you notice a significant weight loss (5% of your weight in a 6-12 month period), you should contact your doctor in any case. It could be H. pylori, but it could also be quite a few more serious conditions. A severe loss of appetite can also be a significant indicator of something wrong.[6]
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    See a doctor if you have severe symptoms. These can include severe abdominal pain, trouble swallowing, bloody or black stools, or bloody or black vomit. You should see a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. They can help assess what’s wrong and if you do indeed have H. pylori.[7]

Method 2
Getting Tests Done

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    Get a blood test. There are blood tests that can show whether you have or have previously had H. pylori. Though they can be a useful diagnostic tool, other tests are typically more accurate for H. pylori. In any case, if you have a blood test, and your doctor thinks you might have or have had H. pylori, she might follow it up with a breath or stool test.[8] You could get the results by the next day.[9]
    • One advantage of the blood test is that its results won't be affected by a recent course of antibiotics.[10]
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    Get a stool test. If you have this test, you’ll give a stool sample to the lab. They’ll look for H. Pylori antigens. This test is more accurate than the blood test. Pepto-bismol and other drugs can interfere with this test.[11]
    • Your doctor will provide you with a plastic stool collection container. Make sure you follow all of the instructions accompanying the container.[12]
    • You will need to collect at least 20mm or 5 grams of stool for this test.[13]
    • Keep the stool sample refrigerated if you are going to return to the doctor within 72 hours. If not, freeze it.[14]
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    Get a breath test. In this test you’ll swallow something that has carbon molecules.[15] This could be a pudding or a pill. You’ll then breath into a bag, and your doctor will check for carbon molecules. Certain drugs such as Pepto-Bismol and antibiotics can interfere with the accuracy of this test. You may have to discontinue taking them a week or so before the test.[16]
    • You'll first breath into a bag, consume the carbon-containing molecules, and then wait 15 minutes. After that time, you'll be asked to breath into the bag again.[17]

Method 3
Getting an Endoscopy

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    Ask your doctor whether you need an endoscopy. An endoscopy is not usually used to diagnose H. pylori, as it is so much more invasive. It is typically used to determine the cause of upper digestive conditions or to diagnose H. pylori ulcers. In any case, unnecessary surgery should be avoided.[18][19]
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    Stop eating and drinking 4-8 hours before the procedure. This will ensure you have an empty stomach for the test. It will also help your doctor to see what is going on. Eating before surgery can make complications worse if they develop.[20] It is also to prevent pulmonary aspiration.[21]
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    Discontinue certain medications before surgery. You may need to talk to your doctor about specific necessary medications (for diabetes, heart conditions, etc.). However, you should typically stop taking blood thinners. This is to protect you from complications that can occur with medications during surgery.[22]
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    Get someone to drive you home. You will need, as is usually the case, someone to drive you home after surgery. Your judgment will be impaired and you will need someone to help you get home safely. Don’t try to drive home yourself.[23]
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    Wait for results. Ulcer results may be available right after the procedure. But the results for the biopsy looking for H. pylori will likely take a bit longer. Once you have your answer, you can proceed with treatment options.[24]


  • This article is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure | Intestinal and Digestive Health