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Acute Gastritis
Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation or swelling in the lining of the stomach. It causes severe, temporary pain.

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What Is Acute Gastritis?

Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation or swelling in the lining of the stomach. It causes severe and nagging pain. However, the pain is temporary and usually lasts for short bursts at a time.

What Causes Acute Gastritis?

Acute gastritis occurs when the lining of your stomach is damaged or weak. This allows digestive acids to irritate the stomach. There are many things that can damage your stomach lining. The causes of acute gastritis include:

  • medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids
  • bacterial infections such as H. pylori
  • excessive alcohol consumption

NSAIDs and corticosteroids are the most common causes of acute gastritis. Between 20 and 50 percent of acute gastritis cases in the United States are caused by H. pylori.

Other causes that are less common include:

  • viral infections
  • extreme stress
  • autoimmune disorders, which may cause the immune system to attack the stomach lining
  • digestive diseases and disorders such as Crohn’s disease
  • bile reflux
  • cocaine use
  • ingesting corrosive substances such as poison
  • surgery
  • kidney failure
  • being on a breathing machine, or respirator

Who Is at Risk for Acute Gastritis?

Factors that increase your risk of acute gastritis include:

  • taking NSAIDs
  • taking corticosteroids
  • drinking a lot of alcohol
  • having a major surgery
  • kidney failure
  • liver failure
  • respiratory failure

What Are the Symptoms of Acute Gastritis?

Some people with acute gastritis do not have any symptoms. Other people may have symptoms that range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:

  • appetite loss
  • indigestion
  • black stools
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bloody vomit that looks like used coffee grounds
  • pain in the upper part of the abdomen
  • a full feeling in the upper abdomen after eating

Some symptoms associated with acute gastritis are also seen in other health conditions. It can be difficult to confirm acute gastritis without talking to a doctor.

How Is Acute Gastritis Diagnosed?

Some tests can be used to diagnose acute gastritis. Usually, your doctor will ask you detailed questions to learn about your symptoms. They may also order tests to confirm diagnosis, such as the following:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) is used to check your overall health.
  • A blood, breath, or saliva test is used to check for H. pylori.
  • A fecal test is used to check for blood in your stool.
  • An esophagogastroduodenoscopy is used to look at the lining of your stomach with a small camera. This is also called an endoscopy.
  • A gastric tissue biopsy involves removing a small piece of stomach tissue for analysis.
  • An X-ray is used to look for structural problems in your digestive system.

How Is Acute Gastritis Treated?

Some cases of acute gastritis go away without treatment. However, many people do need treatment for acute gastritis. The treatment used will depend on what’s causing your pain. Some options include:


There are both over-the-counter and prescription medicines for gastritis. Often, your doctor will recommend a combination of drugs, including the following:

  • Antacids such as Pepto-Bismol, TUMS, or Milk of Magnesia can be used to neutralize stomach acid.
  • H2 antagonists such as famotidine (Pepcid) and cimetidine (Tagamet) reduce the production of stomach acid.
  • Proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and esomeprazole (Nexium) inhibit the production of stomach acid.

Antibiotics are only necessary if you have a bacterial infection, such as from H. pylori.

Your doctor may also recommend that you stop taking any NSAIDS or corticosteroids to see if that relieves your symptoms. However, don’t stop taking these drugs without first talking to your doctor.

Home Care

Lifestyle changes may also help reduce your acute gastritis symptoms. Changes that could help include:

  • avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption
  • avoiding spicy, fried, and acidic foods
  • eating frequent, small meals
  • reducing stress
  • avoiding drugs that can irritate the stomach lining, such as NSAIDs or aspirin

Alternative Treatments for Acute Gastritis

According to research, certain herbs improve digestive system health. They may also help kill H. pylori. Some of the herbs used to treat acute gastritis include:

  • slippery elm
  • myrrh
  • berberine
  • licorice
  • wild indigo
  • clove
  • Oregon grape

Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in using herbs to treat acute gastritis. Some herbs may interact with other medication. Your doctor should be aware of any supplements you take.

Outlook for People with Acute Gastritis

The outlook for acute gastritis depends on the underlying cause. It usually resolves quickly with treatment. However, sometimes treatment fails and it can turn into chronic, or long-term, gastritis.

Acute gastritis may increase your risk of developing gastric cancer.

Preventing Acute Gastritis

You can reduce your risk of developing this condition with a few simple steps:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly and before meals. This can reduce your risk of becoming infected with H. pylori.
  • Cook foods thoroughly. This also reduces the risk of infection.
  • Avoid alcohol or limit your alcohol intake.
  • Avoid NSAIDs or only use them infrequently. Consume NSAIDs with food and water to avoid symptoms.
Written by: Rose Kivi and Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: [Ljava.lang.Object;@7eb92c13
Published: Jul 16, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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