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What is Gastritis?
Gastritis is an inflammation (swelling, redness) of the lining of the stomach. This common condition affects most people at some point in their life. Most cases are short-term and have no lasting effects.
What Causes Gastritis?
The many causes include various lifestyle factors, such as smoking, excess alcohol and caffeine, and overeating. Gastritis is also a side effect of many medicines, such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other causes are bacterial and viral infections, stress from surgery, kidney failure, severe burns and trauma. These things may increase acid production in the stomach or weaken the lining of the stomach. The bacteria named Helicobacter Pylori remains the most common cause of Gastritis. One type of Gastritis that doesn’t involve increased acid is Atrophic Gastritis. In this type, the stomach lining becomes damaged and shrunken.
What are the Symptoms of Gastritis?
The main symptoms are pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen (belly) and cramps. Eating often makes the pain worse. Some people have less appetite. Pain may radiate to the chest, so people think that it’s related to the heart. Other symptoms may be heartburn, bad breath, acid or sour taste in the mouth, and sometimes nausea, vomiting, and bleeding.
How is Gastritis Diagnosed?
The doctor will diagnose Gastritis by using your medical history. A physical examination is usually normal or may show slight tenderness in the stomach area. The doctor may schedule upper endoscopy (looking at the stomach through a lighted, flexible tube) to rule out more serious conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer. During endoscopy, the doctor can take a sample of stomach tissue (biopsy) which can be checked for bacteria (h. pylori). If endoscopy isn’t done and the symptoms continue, other tests may be done, such as barium x-rays. Other tests can also be done to look for H. Pylori by checking blood, stools, or breath.
How is Gastritis Treated?
Treatment focuses on symptoms and avoiding the cause. For H. Pylori infection, a combination of antibiotics and acid-reducing medications may be used to cure it. Medications such as NSAIDs (such as Advil) or Aspirin (ASA) and alcoholic beverages should be avoided. Mild symptoms are controlled with antacids, over-the-counter H2-blockers (such as Ranitidine), or proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs - such as Omeprazole). H2-blockers and PPIs block stomach acid production. Antacids neutralize stomach acid.
For severe Gastritis with bleeding, a hospital stay may be needed. Intravenous fluids and medicines are given to control symptoms, reduce stomach acid, and protect the stomach lining.
Other factors which may help with your treatment include:
Not smoking or drinking alcohol and reducing caffeine consumption, not using medications that irritate your stomach (such as ASA or NSAIDs), and eating regularly and not in excess.
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