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Getting rid of H. pylori for indigestion when your doctor doesn't know whether you have an ulcer

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people with indigestion that may be caused by an ulcer. It tells you about getting rid of H. pylori infection, a treatment sometimes used when your doctor doesn't know whether you have an ulcer. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. Treatment to get rid of H. pylori can help if you have indigestion that causes bloating and pain between your breastbone and your belly button (dyspepsia). This treatment will probably reduce your symptoms over a year.

What is it?

If you have indigestion, you may have a stomach ulcer, a duodenal ulcer, or gastritis (when the lining of your stomach is irritated or slightly damaged). Your symptoms, such as pain, are probably caused by the acid in your stomach passing into the lining of your stomach or your duodenum (the part of your gut just below your stomach). This may happen because H. pylori has damaged the lining of your stomach.

Some people with indigestion have a test called an endoscopy to find out what's causing the symptoms. (An endoscopy is a test that lets your doctor look inside your stomach and bowels. To read more, see our information on upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.) But most people who have indigestion don't need to have this test. That's because, if you have H. pylori, the treatment you'll have for your non-ulcer dyspepsia is the same as the treatment for someone who does have an ulcer. So your doctor doesn't need to know whether you have an ulcer. Research has shown that it's safe for most people with indigestion to have H. pylori treatment without having an endoscopy test first. [10]

If you have indigestion, your GP may advise you to have a test for H. pylori. To read more, see How do doctors diagnose H. pylori?

If your test shows that you have H. pylori, your GP may give you treatment to get rid of the bacteria. Doctors call this test and treat. If you have treatment to get rid of H. pylori, you'll probably be given three or four drugs. You take these drugs every day for up to two weeks. Doctors call this eradication treatment.

One of the drugs, usually a drug called a proton pump inhibitor, will reduce the amount of acid that is made by the cells in your stomach. The other drugs are antibiotics that kill the H. pylori in your stomach. To read more, see Drugs to get rid of H. pylori (eradication treatment).

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the government body that decides which treatments should be available on the NHS. NICE recommends that, if you have dyspepsia, you should take a proton pump inhibitor on its own for a month. If that doesn't help, or your symptoms come back, you should be tested for H. pylori. If your test is positive, you should have eradication treatment. [10]

Last Updated: November 11, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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