Diagnosis of H. Pylori Infection

Various tests can help establish diagnosis of H. Pylori infection in an individual with or without symptoms of the infection. Symptoms are not always helpful in diagnosis of the disease, because there are large percentage of people with the infection but asymptomatic. Symptoms are also non-specific and diagnosis based on symptoms is not possible, they can be used as guide for various tests to help diagnose the disease. Various tests and procedures used for diagnosis of H. Pylori infection include,

  • Breath test: also known as urea breath test. In this test you swallow a pill or liquid or a food item containing tagged carbon molecules. Presence of H. Pylori in your stomach breaks down the solution/pill and release the carbon molecules. Then the carbon molecules are absorbed and expelled vial exhaled breath. This exhaled breath is collected into a bag and a special instrument is used to detect/count the tagged carbon molecules. Hence, presence of carbon molecules indicate H. Pylori infection. In absence of infection, the liquid will not be broken down, carbon molecules will not be detected in exhaled breath, and the test is negative. Various factors can interfere with the test such as, if you are taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), bismuth subsalicylate or some antibiotics. If you are taking these medications, your doctor will ask you to stop those medication for at least two weeks before doing breath test.
  • Stool test: stool test detect presence of foreign protein or antigen associated with H. Pylori infection in stool. Ppis and other drugs that interfere with breath test can interfere with stool test too and need to be discontinued for two weeks before stool test.
  • Various blood tests: analysis of blood samples can help reveal evidence of H. Pylori infection, current and previous. However, blood test is inferior to breath test and stool test for diagnosis of H. Pylori infection.
  • Endoscopy: your doctor visualizes your stomach directly, using an endoscope (inserted via throat and esophagus), which is a long flexible tube containing a camera at the tip, after giving sedative. Endoscope can be used for taking samples of tissues and can be examined under microscope (biopsy) for any irregularity or even presence of stomach cancer. Endoscopy is not recommended for diagnosis of only H. Pylori infection and usually recommended if ulcer or if cancer is suspected.


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