Gastritis is inflammation of the protective lining of the
stomach. Acute gastritis involves sudden, severe inflammation, while chronic
gastritis involves long-term inflammation that can last for years if it’s left
untreated. A less common form of the condition, erosive gastritis, typically
doesn’t cause much inflammation but can lead to bleeding and ulcers in the
lining of the stomach.
Weakness in your stomach lining allows digestive juices to damage
and inflame it, causing gastritis. Having a thin or damaged stomach lining
raises your risk for gastritis. Also, certain conditions and activities
increase your risk for developing gastritis.
A gastrointestinal bacterial infection can cause gastritis. The
most common is infection with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that
infects the lining of the stomach. It’s usually passed from person-to-person, but
it can also be transmitted through contaminated food or water.
Other risk factors include:
- extreme alcohol consumption
- routine use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin
- cocaine use
- age, because the stomach lining thins naturally
Other, less common, risk factors are:
- stress caused by severe injury, illness, or
- autoimmune disorders
- digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease
- viral infections
Are the Symptoms of Gastritis?
Gastritis doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms in everyone, but the
most common symptoms are:
- nausea and vomiting
- a feeling of fullness in your upper abdomen,
particularly after eating
If you have erosive gastritis, you might experience different
- black, tarry stool
- vomiting of blood or material that looks like
Is Gastritis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms,
and ask for your family history. Your doctor may also recommend a breath,
blood, or stool test to check for H. pylori.
In order to get a look at what’s going on inside you, your doctor
may perform an endoscopy to check for inflammation. An endoscopy involves the
use of a long tube that has a camera lens at the tip. Your doctor puts the tube
down your throat, through your esophagus, and into your stomach. Your doctor
may also take a small sample, or biopsy, of the lining of your stomach if they
find anything unusual during the examination.
Your doctor may also take X-rays of your digestive tract after
you swallow a barium solution, which will help distinguish areas of concern.
Is Gastritis Treated?
The treatment for gastritis depends on the cause of the condition.
If you have gastritis caused by NSAIDs or other drugs, avoiding those drugs may
be enough to relieve your symptoms. Gastritis as a result of H. pylori is
routinely treated with antibiotics that kill the bacteria. In addition to
antibiotics, several other types of medication are used to treat gastritis.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Medicines called proton pump inhibitors work by blocking cells
that create stomach acid. Common proton pump inhibitors include:
- omeprazole (Prilosec)
- lansoprazole (Prevacid)
- esomeprazole (Nexium)
However, long-term use of these
medicines, especially at high doses, can lead to an increased risk of spine,
hip, and wrist fractures.
Acid Reducing Medications
Medicines that reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces
include ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid). By lowering the amount of
acid that’s released into your digestive tract, these medications relieve the
pain of gastritis and allow your stomach lining to heal.
Your doctor may recommend that you use antacids for rapid relief
of gastritis pain. These medicines can neutralize the acid in your stomach.
However, some antacids can cause diarrhea or constipation.
Are the Potential Complications from Gastritis?
If your gastritis is left untreated, it can cause bleeding in
your stomach as well as ulcers. Certain forms of gastritis can increase your
risk of developing stomach cancer, particularly in people with thinned stomach
linings. Because of these potential complications, it’s important to consult
your doctor if you experience symptoms of gastritis, especially if they’re
chronic. With prompt treatment, the outlook for gastritis is very good.