What is acute
Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation or
swelling in the lining of the stomach. It can cause severe and nagging pain.
However, the pain is temporary and usually lasts for short bursts at a time.
Acute gastritis comes on suddenly, and can be
caused by injury, bacteria, viruses, stress, or ingesting irritants such as
alcohol, NSAIDs, steroids, or spicy food. It is often only temporary. Chronic
gastritis, on the other hand, comes on more slowly and lasts longer. Chronic
gastritis might cause more of a consistent dull ache than the more intense pain
of acute gastritis.
Gastritis is a separate condition from
gastroenteritis. Gastritis only directly affects the stomach and may include
nausea or vomiting, while gastroenteritis affects both the stomach and the
intestines. Gastroenteritis symptoms may include diarrhea in addition to nausea
While the prevalence of chronic gastritis has
decreased in developing countries in recent years, acute gastritis is still
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
- bacterial infections such as H. pylori
- excessive alcohol consumption
NSAIDs and corticosteroids (steroid hormone
medications) are the most common causes of acute gastritis.
H. pylori is a type of
bacteria that can infect the stomach. It’s often the cause of peptic ulcers.
While it’s unclear how H. pylori
spreads, it can result in stomach inflammation, loss of appetite, nausea,
bloating, and abdominal pain.
Other causes that are less common include:
- viral infections
- extreme stress
- autoimmune disorders, which may cause the immune system to attack the
- digestive diseases and disorders such as Crohn’s disease
- bile reflux
- cocaine use
- ingesting corrosive substances such as poison
- kidney failure
- systemic stress
- being on a breathing machine or respirator
Who is at risk for acute gastritis?
Factors that increase your risk of acute gastritis
- taking NSAIDs
- taking corticosteroids
- drinking a lot of alcohol
- having 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:
- loss of appetite
- black stools
- 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.
Contact your doctor if you have gastritis symptoms
for a week or longer. If you vomit blood, seek medical attention immediately.
There are some conditions that can cause symptoms
similar to those of acute gastritis, including:
- peptic ulcers, which may accompany gastritis
- Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic inflammatory condition and
can involve the entire digestive tract
- gallstones or gallbladder disease
- food poisoning, which can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting,
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
- a complete blood count (CBC), which is used to check your overall
- a blood, breath, or saliva test, which is used to check for H.
- a fecal test, which is used to check for blood in your stool
- an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or endoscopy, which is used to look at
the lining of your stomach with a small camera
- a gastric tissue biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of
stomach tissue for analysis
- an X-ray, which is used to look for structural problems in your
How is acute gastritis treated?
Some cases of acute gastritis go away without
treatment, and eating a bland diet can aid in a quick recovery. Foods that are
low in natural acids, low in fat, and low in fiber may be tolerated best. Lean
meats like chicken or turkey breast can be added to the diet if tolerated,
though chicken broth or other soups might be best if vomiting keeps happening.
However, many people do need treatment for acute
gastritis, with treatment and recovery times depending on the cause of the
gastritis. H. pylori infections may
require one or two rounds of antibiotics, which could last for two weeks
apiece. Other treatments, like those used to treat viruses, will involve taking
medication to reduce symptoms.
Some treatment 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.
These can be used as long as a person experiences gastritis, with a dose taken
as often as every 30 minutes if needed.
- H2 antagonists such as famotidine (Pepcid) and cimetidine (Tagamet) reduce the
production of stomach acid and can be taken between 10 and 60 minutes before
- Proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and esomeprazole (Nexium) inhibit the
production of stomach acid. They should be taken only once every 24 hours and
for no more than 14 days.
Antibiotics are only necessary if you have a
bacterial infection, such as from H. pylori. Common antibiotics
used to treat H. pylori infections include amoxicillin, tetracycline (which shouldn’t be
used in children under 12 years old), and clarithromycin. The antibiotic may
be used in conjunction with a proton pump inhibitor, antacid, or H2 antagonist.
Treatment typically lasts between 10 days and four weeks.
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.
Lifestyle changes may also help reduce your acute
gastritis symptoms. Changes that could help include:
- avoiding or limiting
- avoiding spicy,
fried, and acidic foods
- eating frequent,
- reducing stress
- avoiding drugs that can irritate the stomach lining, such as
NSAIDs or aspirin
Alternative treatments for acute
According to research
originally published in The Original Internist, certain herbs
improve digestive health. They may also help kill H. pylori. Some
of the herbs used to treat acute gastritis include:
- slippery elm
- wild indigo
- Oregon grape
Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in using
herbs to treat acute gastritis, and ask how long you should take each of them.
Some herbs may interact with other medications. 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. H. pylori infections, for example, can
often be treated with one or two rounds of antibiotics, and it may take a week
or two for you to fight off viral infections.
However, sometimes treatment fails and it can turn
into chronic, or long-term, gastritis. Chronic gastritis also 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 don’t
use them frequently. Consume NSAIDs with food and water to avoid symptoms.