Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that causes more than 80 percent to 90 percent of all primary peptic ulcers.
Interestingly, the majority of people do not develop symptoms from their infection and the disease associated with it. However, there are children and adults who do develop symptoms along with the H. pylori infection.
Some symptoms of an ulcer include:
- Abdominal discomfort and/or pain, usually between the belly button and breast bone
- A dull, gnawing ache that comes and goes for several days or weeks
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Blood in the stool
Ulcers were previously thought to be caused by stress or spicy food. However, in 1982, a physician named Barry Marshall made a significant discovery when he determined that a bacterial infection caused ulcers and not stress or spicy food.
Peptic ulcers are sores on the lining of the stomach and duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine). H. pylori burrows through the protective mucus in the stomach and the duodenum and attaches to the lining of the stomach and the mucus layer. Both the acid and the bacteria irritate the lining and cause a sore, or ulcer, or can cause irritation of the lining (called gastritis).
H. pylori infection infects more than 50 percent of the world's population and is most common in developing countries where more than 50 percent of children are infected by age 10. In developed nations, like the U.S. and Canada, about 10 percent of children are infected by age 10 and about 40 percent of adults are infected by age 50.
How is H. Pylori Diagnosed?
If a child has an ulcer and has not been tested for H. pylori infection, or, if a child has symptoms of an ulcer, it is important that parents speak with a doctor so that he might be able to test for H. pylori or make the appropriate referral to a gastroenterologist who can make the diagnosis and cure the infection and ulcer.