Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

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
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent burping
  • Bloating
  • Unintentional weight loss

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any persistent signs and symptoms that worry you. Seek immediate medical help if you experience:

  • Severe or persistent abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bloody or black tarry stools
  • Bloody or black vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds

Causes

The exact way H. pylori infects someone is still unknown. H. pylori bacteria may be passed from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit or fecal matter. H. pylori may also be spread through contaminated food or water.

Risk factors

H. pylori is often contracted in childhood. Risk factors for H. pylori infection are related to living conditions in your childhood, such as:

  • Living in crowded conditions. You have a greater risk of H. pylori infection if you live in a home with many other people.
  • Living without a reliable supply of clean water. Having a reliable supply of clean, running water helps reduce the risk of H. pylori.
  • Living in a developing country. People living in developing countries, where crowded and unsanitary living conditions may be more common, have a higher risk of H. pylori infection.
  • Living with someone who has an H. pylori infection. If someone you live with has H. pylori, you're more likely to also have H. pylori.

Complications

Complications associated with H. pylori infection include:

  • 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.
  • Inflammation of the stomach lining. H. pylori infection can irritate your stomach, causing inflammation (gastritis).
  • Stomach cancer. H. pylori infection is a strong risk factor for certain types of stomach cancer.
May 17, 2017
References
  1. Peptic ulcers (stomach ulcers). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/peptic-ulcers-stomach-ulcers/all-content. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.
  2. Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Gastrointestinal disorders. In: Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2017. 56th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2017. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.
  3. Helicobacter pylori infection. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/gastritis-and-peptic-ulcer-disease/helicobacter-pylori-infection. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.
  4. Helicobacter pylori and cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/h-pylori-fact-sheet. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.
  5. American College of Gastroenterology guideline on the management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Bethesda, Md.: American College of Gastroenterology guideline on the management of Helicobacter pylori infection. Bethesda, Md.: American College of Gastroenterology. http://gi.org/guideline/management-of-helicobacter-pylori-infection/. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.
  6. Crowe SE. Bacteriology and epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori infection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.
  7. Crowe SE. Indications and diagnostic tests for Helicobacter pylori infection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 9, 2017.