Gastritis is an inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach that can occur suddenly or may develop gradually. It is described as a group of conditions which have one symptom in common, i.e., inflammation of the stomach lining. Gastritis is mainly caused by bacterial infection, heavy drinking of alcohol, stress, and excess use of medications such as aspirin.
Types of gastritis
There are two main types of gastritis, acute and chronic. Acute gastritis is a sudden, severe inflammation of the stomach lining and chronic gastritis is a long-lasting inflammatory condition that develops for years, if left untreated. There is one more type called erosive gastritis which doesn’t cause inflammation but can lead to bleeding and ulcers in the stomach lining.
Gastritis can be easily managed with treatment. But if the condition is serious and if it is left untreated, the patient may develop severe ulcers, bleeding, and sometimes cancer.
Signs and symptoms
Usually, the symptoms of gastritis vary depending on the severity of the condition and few patients do not experience any symptoms until the condition gets severe. The most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Burning sensation in the stomach, especially between the meals and in the night
- Feeling of fullness in upper abdomen after eating
- Dark-colored stools
Consult the doctor if the symptoms persist for more than a week. Inform the doctor about the use of OTC drugs such as aspirin or other pain relievers.
Damage or weakness of the mucus lining of the stomach makes the digestive juice to damage and inflame the stomach lining. Conditions like excess alcohol use, medications, and stress also cause gastritis. Other causes of gastritis include:
- Helicobacter pylori infection-This bacterium lives in the mucus lining of the stomach, if it is not treated, it may lead to ulcers, and sometimes stomach cancer.
- Anemia- If vitamin B12 is not absorbed; it may lead to pernicious anemia, ultimately resulting in gastritis.
- Reflux of bile- backflow of bile from bile tract also causes gastritis.
- Other bacterial and viral infections cause gastritis.
Many factors increase the risk of gastritis such as:
- Disease conditions like HIV, Crohn’s disease, and parasitic infections increase the risk of gastritis
- Stress caused by injury, surgery, burns, or infections increase the risk of acute gastritis
- Smoking and drinking - the H. pylori bacterium could be inherited easily in people who smoke and drink excessively
- Use of pain killers such as aspirin, ibuprofen regularly - reduces a key substance that protects the lining of stomach
- Older age - stomach lining becomes thin as a person becomes old and also older adults are more likely to have H. Pylori infection
- Autoimmune gastritis – a condition wherein the body attacks the cells that make up stomach lining
The doctor assesses the medical history and performs a physical examination. If gastritis is suspected, the following tests are recommended:
- H.Pylori test - to detect the presence of H.pylori in samples of blood, urine or saliva
- X-ray- images of esophagus, stomach, and small intestine are taken to check for the presence of abnormalities
- A complete blood count- to check overall health
- Endoscopy- an endoscope will be passed down the throat, stomach, and esophagus to look for the signs of inflammation. A small tissue may also be taken from the stomach region to check anything unusual and to identify H. pylori.
Treatment of gastritis depends on factors like cause and severity of the disease. If gastritis is caused by regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs, then the condition may be managed just by stopping the use of those drugs. If the condition is severe, then following gastritis treatment options are considered:
- Antacids to reduce existing stomach acid
- For H. pylori infection- antibiotic medications such as clarithromycin and amoxicillin and acid blocking drugs such as ranitidine, famotidine, cimetidine are prescribed
- For patients with pernicious anemia- vitamin B12 supplements are given
Self-management and Prevention
Gastritis can be managed quickly after undergoing treatment and by making certain life-style changes. These include:
- Eat completely cooked food to avoid H. pylori infections.
- Avoid eating hot and spicy foods
- Try eating small meals several times instead of huge meals at once.
- Avoid the intake of irritating foods such as lactose from milk products and gluten from wheat.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Use painkillers only when prescribed by the doctor.
- Try to avoid stress and learn to cope with it.
- Wash the hands regularly with soap and water.