What is Gastritis?

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What is Gastritis?

Gastritis is an inflammation or irritation that occurs in the stomach lining, also called the mucosa. Cells in the stomach lining actively make acid, enzymes and mucus. Acid and enzymes work to digest food you have eaten, while mucus protects the stomach lining from the damaging effects of acid. An inflamed mucosa will generate less acid, enzymes and mucus.

The symptoms of gastritis are similar to several other conditions, and many people mistake the signs for other diseases. If you have gastritis, you might experience discomfort in the upper abdomen, but some people do not experience it.

Two types of this inflammation include acute and chronic gastritis. You have acute gastritis when you have a sudden and brief onset of inflammation, such as stomach upset after taking aspirin or drinking alcohol. Chronic gastritis results from Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, and the onset is gradual. You need to treat this immediately since it can last for years or a lifetime if left untreated. While acute gastritis may resolve itself on its own, chronic gastritis will need medical treatment.

Causes

The most common causes of this inflammation include:

  • Infections caused by bacteria (Helicobacter pylori), parasite, virus (including herpes simplex virus) or fungus.
  • Irritations caused by smoking, alcohol, acidic beverages or prolonged use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Autoimmune gastritis, where the body attacks the cells in the stomach lining.
  • Bile reflux disease where bile flows into the stomach causing inflammation and gastritis.
  • Other diseases such as Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and renal failure.

Signs and Symptoms

If the symptoms occur, they might include:

  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensation of fullness in the upper abdomen after meals

Diagnosis

Your doctor may order one or more tests to check for gastritis:

Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy

An endoscopy involves the removal of a small sample from your stomach, called a biopsy. After administering a light anesthetic, a thin and lighted tube called an endoscope is inserted through your mouth into your stomach. The doctor applies this to check the stomach, lining of the esophagus and small intestine. The doctor may remove a small portion of the tissue if it looks suspicious. A pathologist will examine the sample.

Upper gastrointestinal x-ray

You will be asked to swallow barium, which is a liquid contrast material to allow the digestive tract to be noticeable in an x-ray. Changes in the stomach lining can be discernible through x-ray images.

Blood tests

A blood test is required to examine whether or not Helicobacter pylori antibodies are present. If you test positive, it means you have bacteria in your body, but it does not mean you get infected. The doctor might find that you have anemia, a sign of stomach bleeding, by performing blood tests.

Stool tests

If blood in the stool is present, a stool test might be positive. It may mean you have another sign of stomach bleeding. The doctor can determine whether or not you get infected by the bacteria.

Treatment

Your doctor might prescribe a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) and antibiotics to treat Helicobacter pylori. The PPI alleviates nausea, pain, and irritation; while the antibiotics will get rid of the bacteria. However, there are some other medications to treat stomach acid. They include PPIs, H2 blockers, and antacids.

Complications

Gastritis can result in stomach bleeding and stomach ulcers if left untreated. Chronic gastritis eventually boosts the risk of stomach cancer, especially when changes in the lining’s cells in the stomach and thinning of the stomach lining take place.

References

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What is Gastritis? - https://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gastritis/

The University of Maryland Medical Center: Gastritis - https://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/gastritis-000067.htm

MayoClinic.com: Gastritis - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gastritis/DS00488