The drop in severe ulcers could have multiple causes, she said. "Some of this decrease may have been because over time the proportion of individuals infected with H. pylori is decreasing, perhaps because of better sanitation and hygiene. However, some of this decrease is likely due to the increased use of antibiotics to treat peptic ulcer diseases," Feinstein said.
Most cases of H. pylori infection cause no symptoms, Feinstein noted. However, symptoms such as burning pain in the stomach before, or sometimes after, eating, which may go away with antacids, nausea, bloating, or loss of appetite may be a sign of peptic ulcer disease. In that case, the affected person should see a doctor.
"Your doctor will determine if you have peptic ulcer disease and if you are infected with H. pylori and are a candidate for antibiotic therapy," she said.
Infectious diseases expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University in New York City, countered that "this study doesn't [yet] prove that treating H. pylori decreases the rate of hospitalizations," because there are too many other factors at play to credit antibacterial therapy as the primary cause for the decline.
"However, the study reminds us that H. pylori remains significant in peptic ulcer disease and its complications," he said.
For more information on peptic ulcers, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
SOURCES: Lydia B. Feinstein, Ph.D., graduate student, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Marc Siegel, M.D., as
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