In This Article
In This Article
An H. pylori test checks for the presence of Helicobacter pylori in your digestive tract. Doctors also use the test to confirm if you have an H. pylori infection.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that lives in your digestive system.
It damages the tissues lining your upper digestive tract, causing irritation and painful sores to develop on your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.
H. pylori testing can tell your doctor if your symptoms are caused by the bacteria. Early diagnosis helps you get proper treatment.
Quick Facts on H. Pylori Testing
H. Pylori infections are common. It is estimated that half of the world’s population is infected with the bacteria. Not everyone who is infected with H. pylori will develop symptoms.
Left untreated, H. pylori can increase your risk for:
Your doctor will likely order the test if you have signs of an H. pylori infection—so you can be treated right away.
You may also be asked to retake an H. pylori test four to six weeks after you finish treatment. It helps your doctor confirm if the prescribed medications worked.
H. pylori causes your stomach to produce less mucus. This makes your stomach more sensitive to its own digestive acids. As a result, you’re more likely to suffer from peptic ulcers.
Signs and symptoms of an H. pylori infection include:
“If you have a peptic ulcer, you may experience burning or sharp pain in the abdomen during or after eating,” says Dr. Rizza Mira, our in-house medical expert at KnowYourDNA.
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Diagnostic tests may be done using a stool sample, a breath test, and a blood test:
“The H. pylori breath test can check for the presence of the bacteria in the stomach or detect an active infection,” says Dr. Mira.
A healthcare professional will make you breathe into a bag to collect two breath samples. These initial samples will serve as their baseline.
Next, you have to swallow a specially marked liquid or pill containing a harmless substance called urea. After 15 minutes, they will collect another sample.
H. pylori breaks down urea into carbon dioxide gas. The gas leaves your body when you exhale air from your lungs.
At the laboratory, they will analyze your second breath sample. Higher levels of marked carbon dioxide gas indicate a Helicobacter pylori infection in your gut.
Remember to inform your doctor about the medications you’re taking. You may be asked to avoid the following two to four weeks before the H. pylori breath test:
An hour before the breath test, you must avoid eating or drinking anything—including water—for accurate test results.
Antigen tests look for proteins that trigger an immune response.
An H. pylori antigen test checks for antigens or proteins linked to the bacteria. A positive result suggests an active Helicobacter pylori infection.
It requires that you collect a small stool sample at home. The stool should be placed in a clean and dry plastic container with a screw-cap lid.
You can wear protective gloves to avoid contamination while collecting the sample. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after.
Bring the sample to the lab immediately for accurate results.
Your doctor may ask you to avoid these medications for up to fourteen days before the test:
Blood tests check for the presence of antibodies or infection-fighting cells in your blood. It can help your doctor find out if you have an active infection.
However, Dr. Mira warns that blood testing isn’t as accurate for H. pylori testing.
“Blood tests can’t tell whether your H. pylori infection is still active. Your results may remain positive for years after you’ve been cured,” she explains.
A healthcare professional will draw a blood sample from your arm with a needle. Your blood sample is collected into a vial or test tube.
Doctors can confirm an H. pylori infection with blood testing, a urea breath test, and a stool antigen test. A positive test result usually indicates an ongoing infection.
If you test positive for H. pylori, it means that your symptoms may be caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection.
A negative test result suggests you’re not infected with H. pylori. Your symptoms may be caused by a different condition.
If your symptoms persist, you may have to undergo other tests like an endoscopy. This will help your doctor rule out what’s causing them.
Here are common questions on H. Pylori testing:
Healthcare experts believe that you can get infected with H. pylori if you eat food or drink water that contains contaminated human stool.
It is also transmitted directly via contact with infected human stool, vomit, or saliva. For example, you can catch it when you’re exposed to family members with H. pylori.
It’s unclear why some people with H. pylori infections get peptic ulcers while others don’t.
But H. pylori doesn’t always lead to ulcers. Many people show signs of infection but have no symptoms of ulcerative diseases.
Treating an H. pylori infection includes taking antibiotics and medications that lower the production of stomach acid in your GI tract.
Treatment usually lasts for several weeks. Examples of medications that treat high stomach acidity include PPI, H2 blockers, and bismuth preparation.
H. pylori is a common infection, but not everyone gets ulcers from it. Testing is suggested only for those who show signs and symptoms.
Yes. At-home breath tests and stool tests can also test for H. pylori infections. Doctors may hand out breath or stool test kits so you can take them home.
The general guidelines for taking an at-home breath or stool test are as follows:
● Follow the instructions on the package and labels of your testing kit
● If you need extra help, talk to your doctor about how to take the tests
● Collect your samples in a dry and sterile container to avoid contamination
● Bring your samples to the clinic or lab right away to process the result
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