Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria found in the lining of the stomach wall. It is a fairly common bacteria, present in about 30% of the United States population, and about 66% of the population worldwide. Most patients, probably about 70%, don’t have any symptoms. In others, the bacterium can cause gastritis and peptic ulcers and sometimes can cause stomach cancer later in life.
The bacterium’s presence is felt to be the result of poor sanitary conditions, and for that reason, it is very common in children in Third World countries.
In the United States, infection is not as widespread, probably due to higher hygiene standards and the large use of antibiotics It is more common in older people and the poor.
H. Pylori Is Always Treated
When Helicobacter pylori does cause symptoms, it is usually the result of gastritis, gastric ulcers or duodenal ulcers. It has been estimated that over 90% of duodenal ulcers in the United States are caused by Helicobacter pylori. Both gastric cancer and a certain type of lymphoma of the stomach have been associated with the presence of Helicobacter pylori. For that reason, if found, even if patients do not have symptoms, Helicobacter pylori is treated.
H. Pylori Doesn’t Cause GERD
Helicobacter pylori does not cause or contribute to symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Interestingly, on the other hand, it might have a protective effect. Helicobacter pylori is associated with a lower severity of symptoms of GERD, as well as a lower incidence of Barrett’s esophagus. Some studies have shown that patients who are treated for Helicobacter pylori can develop symptoms of GERD after the bacteria has been killed. If you have Helicobacter pylori and or GERD, you should discuss options to treat both disorders with your physician.
For more information on treating H. Pylori, read: