H Pylori Symptoms
- pylori infection is very common nowadays; however, in many cases, the patient doesn’t know that he/she is infected by this bacteria until advanced stages of the disease because, at the beginning, the infection is asymptomatic.
Just in a few cases, the patient can have some symptoms from the first moment, but as they usually are mild and nonspecific (nausea, loss of appetite, among others) most patients don’t consult a doctor until the disease progresses.
The most common symptoms that a patient with H. pylori infection may experience include unintentional weight loss, lack of appetite which can lead to total anorexia, feeling full even when the patient has eaten a small amount of food, abdominal distension, foul breath, frequent belching, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and upper abdominal pain that can be described as ” a burning sensation” that is usually worse when the stomach is empty (painful hunger).
Likewise, the symptoms severity can range widely from a patient to another because, due to a mechanism still unknown, some people can have a genetical resistance to the harmful properties of H. pylori.
Once the H. pylori harmful effects produce a stomach or duodenal ulcer the pain gets stronger and more continuous. This kind of abdominal pain can be temporarily calmed with non-prescription antacids, so the patient usually relieves the pain with them during the first phases of the disease.
Although these symptoms are very suggestive of peptic ulcer, and as consequence of H. pylori infection, they are very unspecific, for they can be caused by many different diseases or even they can be experienced by healthy people, so it is important to know that, when the abdominal pain gets more severe or persistent (not being calm with antacids), the patient experiences difficulty in swallowing, the vomiting looks like “coffee grounds” or it has blood, anemia (a low red blood cell count), and the feces become black or bloody, the patient must consult a doctor as soon as possible because they are signs of alarm that can indicate ulcers complications.
The main complication of peptic ulcer is bleeding. When the ulcer is superficial the patient can experience small but constant blood loss that can cause anaemia in the long term. However, when the ulcer becomes deeper, it can damage bigger blood vessels and cause an important and sudden bleeding, which must be treated immediately to avoid a hypovolemic shock or even death due to excessive blood loss.
Likewise, a patient with ulcers due to H. pylori infection can present a complete perforation of the ulcer, which means that the stomach or small intestine have direct communication with the abdominal cavity. When this complication occurs, the abdominal pain is more intense than the typical peptic ulcer abdominal pain, the patient’s abdomen gets contracted, fever can appear, and vomiting is more frequent and intense.
This is a less frequent complication; however, it is more severe because the abdominal cavity is infected by the bacteria in the feces and the digestive enzymes, so the patient develops peritonitis (abdominal cavity inflammation and infection). This complication must be treated immediately with surgery and hospitalisation.