What is gastritis?
What causes gastritis?
Gastritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach.
The stomach lining is usually strong enough to withstand acidic and spicy foods, alcohol and more. However, irritation may be caused by excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, stress or the use of certain medications such as aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs. Gastritis may also be brought on by:
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): A bacterium that lives in the mucous lining of the stomach. Without treatment, the infection can lead to ulcers and, in some people, to stomach cancer.
- Pernicious anaemia: A form of anaemia that occurs when the stomach lacks a naturally occurring substance (intrinsic factor) needed to properly absorb and digest vitamin B12.
- Bile reflux: A backflow of the contents of the duodenum up into the stomach, where bile in the intestinal fluids may irritate the stomach lining.
- Infections caused by bacteria and viruses
If gastritis is left untreated, it can lead to severe loss of blood, or in some cases it can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
What are the symptoms of gastritis?
Symptoms of gastritis vary among individuals, and in many people there are no symptoms. However, the most common symptoms include:
- Nausea or recurrent upset stomach
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach between meals or at night
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting blood or coffee ground-like material
- Black, tarry stools
How is gastritis diagnosed?
To diagnose gastritis, your GP will review your personal and family medical history, will perform a thorough physical examination, and may recommend any of the following tests:
- Upper endoscopy. An endoscope, a thin tube containing a tiny camera, is inserted through your mouth and down into your stomach to look at the stomach lining. Your doctor will check for inflammation and may perform a biopsy, a procedure in which a tiny sample of tissue is removed and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
- Blood tests. Your doctor may perform various blood tests, such as checking your red blood cell count to determine whether you have anaemia (meaning you do not have enough red blood cells). He or she can also screen for H. pylori infection and pernicious anaemia with blood tests.
- Faecal occult blood test (stool test). This test checks for the presence of hidden blood in your stool, a possible sign of gastritis.
What is the treatment for gastritis?
Treatment for gastritis usually involves:
- Taking antacids and other drugs to reduce stomach acid, which causes further irritation to inflamed areas
- Avoiding hot and spicy foods and cutting down on excess alcohol
- For gastritis caused by H. pylori infection, your doctor will prescribe a regimen of several antibiotics plus an acid-blocking drug (used for treating heartburn).
- If the gastritis is caused by pernicious anaemia, vitamin B12 will be given by injection (because it is not properly absorbed by mouth).
Once the underlying problem disappears, the gastritis usually does too. You should talk to your doctor before stopping any medicine or starting any gastritis treatment on your own.
What is the prognosis for gastritis?
Most cases of gastritis improve quickly once treatment has begun.