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H. pylori infection - What are the symptoms of H. pylori?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Most people who haveHelicobacter pylori (H. pylori for short) don't have any symptoms. H. pylori is one of the common bacteria (germs) that can live in your stomach. If you have symptoms, it's because H. pylori has damaged the lining of your stomach or the top part of your gut (your duodenum).

Here are some of the symptoms you may have.

Pain

  • You're most likely to get a gnawing or burning pain between your breastbone and your belly button.

  • You usually get the pain when your stomach is empty (between meals), or early in the morning. But it can happen at other times too.

  • The pain may last a few minutes or much longer. If you eat something or take an antacid (such as Rennie or Tums) you may feel better.[6]

Heartburn

  • Heartburn is a burning feeling in your chest.

  • Some people also feel liquid coming up into their throat.

  • Heartburn is usually caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD for short).

  • There's no evidence that H. pylori causes GORD. But you can get heartburn if you have a stomach ulcer, which may be caused by H. pylori.

Bloating

  • You may feel uncomfortably full or bloated.

  • You may also pass wind.

Dyspepsia

  • Doctors keep changing what they mean by dyspepsia. Nowadays, they use it as a way of grouping together all the main symptoms of ulcers. So when doctors say dyspepsia they mean pain in your stomach or in your gut, plus bloating.

  • Dyspepsia isn't the same as heartburn, although some people with heartburn also have pain in their stomach or gut.

Your symptoms will depend on which part of your digestive system has been damaged by H. pylori. For example, your symptoms could be caused by problems in your stomach or your duodenum (the part of your gut just below your stomach). To learn more about your digestion system, see What is H. pylori?

Some of the symptoms are similar to the symptoms you get with other diseases, including some kinds of cancer. So you may need to have tests to find out what's causing your symptoms.

Warning symptoms

Some symptoms mean that you may have something more serious than an ulcer or GORD. These symptoms include:

  • Vomiting blood

  • Passing black stools

  • Feeling that food sticks in your throat when you swallow

  • Losing weight without trying

  • Feeling tired or off-colour for no reason.

If you have black stools or you are vomiting blood, you should see your doctor or go to an accident and emergency department in a hospital as soon as possible. These symptoms could be caused by bleeding in your stomach or your bowel.

The other warning symptoms may not be caused by anything serious. But the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that if you have warning symptoms you should see a specialist or have an endoscopy within two weeks.[10] (NICE is the government body that decides which treatments should be available on the NHS.) If you are advised to have an urgent endoscopy, do bear in mind that only 4 in 100 people who are referred urgently for warning symptoms will have cancer.[10]

During an endoscopy, a doctor uses a long tube with a camera on its end to look inside your throat and stomach. To read more, see our information on upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.

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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