When to Consider H. pylori Testing: Indications and Guidelines

Helicobacter pylori, often abbreviated as H. pylori, is a type of bacteria that can infect the stomach lining and cause various gastrointestinal problems. H.pylori is present in approximately 50-75% of the global population, including children.

H.pylori testing is commonly ordered to determine the presence of the bacteria in the body. But how do you know when to consider H. pylori testing?

Let’s learn more about H. pylori and its potential health implications and understand the key indications and guidelines for testing.

What Is H. pylori?

  1. pylori is a type of bacteria that thrives in the stomach’s acidic environment and does not cause illness in most people.
  2. pyloriinfections are most likely to occur in children who live in crowded conditions and areas with poor sanitation. Many people with H. pylori don’t have any symptoms at all. But when the symptoms occur, these are:
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent burping
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Black, tarry stools

Typically, the bacteria multiply in the mucus layer of the stomach lining and duodenum. It secretes an enzyme called urease that neutralizes some stomach acid and makes it easier for bacteria to attach to the stomach lining and invade the cells.

This damage to the lining of the stomach causes conditions such as:

  • Gastritis: pylori infection can lead to stomach lining inflammation, causing symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Peptic Ulcers: pylori is a major risk factor for peptic ulcers. In peptic ulcers, painful open sores can develop in the stomach lining or the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum). About 10% of people with infection develop peptic ulcer.
  • Stomach Cancer: Although relatively rare, long-term H. pylori infection is linked to an increased risk of certain types of stomach cancer.

Given these potential health risks of H. pylori, it’s crucial to know when to consider H. pylori testing.

Indications for H. pylori Testing

  1. pylori testing may be recommended under various circumstances, depending on a person’s symptoms, medical history, and risk factors. Here are the primary indications for H. pylori testing:

Persistent Digestive Symptoms

If you find yourself grappling with persistent digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting, it’s a strong signal to consider H. pylori testing. These symptoms can indicate gastritis or peptic ulcers, conditions often associated with H. pylori infection.

Active or Past Stomach Ulcers

One of the top reasons to get tested for H. pylori is if you have or have had a stomach ulcer.Painful sores or ulcers can develop in the lining of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine, causing peptic ulcer disease. H. pylori infection is the main cause of peptic ulcer disease.

So,GI doctors strongly recommend testing for H. pylori if you have an active or recent stomach ulcer. Catching and treating H. pylori is crucial for treating ulcers and preventing them from returning.

Dyspepsia Symptoms

Dyspepsia refers to recurring abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, or other digestive discomfort. H. pylori testing is often recommended to determine the cause of unexplained dyspepsia.

This is especially true for patients under 60 since H. pylori is a more common cause of dyspepsia in younger adults.

Long-term Use of Medications

Certain medications can cause damage to the stomach lining, which can lead to H. pylori infection. Patients who are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin for extended periods may be at an increased risk for H. pylori. For these individuals, screening may be necessary to check for H. pylori.

Family History

There is a genetic predisposition to H. pylori infection. Thus, GI specialists also recommend testing for H. pylori for patients who have a family history of gastric cancer or H. pylori-related gastric disorders.

Unexplained Anemia

Chronic H. pylori infection can lead to chronic stomach inflammation, which may impair the absorption of essential nutrients such as iron. This can result in unexplained anemia, characterized by reduced red blood cells and decreased ability to carry oxygen.

If you’re experiencing unexplained anemia, it’s a valid reason to consider H. pylori testing.

Prior H. pylori Treatment

If you’ve previously received treatment for H. pylori infection, your GI doctor may recommend H. pylori testing to ensure the infection has been successfully eradicated.

It’s crucial to confirm that H. pylori is no longer present to prevent potential relapses and complications.

Confirmation of Diagnosis

In some cases, GI specialists may order H. pylori testing to confirm a suspected diagnosis. For instance, if your symptoms strongly suggest an H. pylori-related condition such as gastritis, a positive test result can help confirm the diagnosis and guide treatment.

H. pylori Testing Methods

There are several ways to test for an H. pylori infection. Common diagnostic tests include:

Blood Tests

A blood sample is taken and analyzed for antibodies (proteins made by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances such as H. pylori) to H. pylori. Blood tests are inexpensive and non-invasive.

However, blood tests may not always accurately indicate if there is an active infection or a past infection.

Stool Tests

A stool sample is checked for the presence of H. pylori bacteria. This test can accurately diagnose active infection as well as confirm eradication of bacteria after antibiotic treatment.

Breath Tests

For this test, you swallow a capsule or drink containing urea. If H. pylori is present, it will release enzymes that break down this urea into carbon dioxide, which is then detected in your breath. H. pylori breathing tests are highly accurate for active infection.

This test can be done in your gastroenterologists’ office.


During an upper endoscopy procedure, a small tissue sample can be taken from your stomach and tested for H. pylori. Endoscopy with biopsy tends to be the most accurate testing method.

H. pylori Breathing Test Near Me in California

If you are experiencing any gastric symptoms or have a history of H. pylori-related disorders, consult our GI doctor here at Genensis Healthcare Partnersto determine whether H. pylori testing is appropriate for you.Our GI specialist can comprehensively assess your conditions and recommend the most appropriate testing method based on your unique needs. We commonly order and perform H.pylori breathing tests, endoscopy, stool tests, PCR tests, and blood tests.

To know more about us or set up a consultation with us, fill out our online appointment request form or visit one of our clinics near you. We look forward to serving you!