Gastritis is inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach, also called the gastric mucosa. Gastritis can be acute, occurring suddenly and briefly, or chronic, occurring over a long period of time or with recurrences.
Common causes of Gastritis include:
- Bacterial infection from helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), one of the most common infections in humans worldwide, is also the same bacteria responsible for the majority of peptic ulcers.
- Prolonged use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAID’s, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.
- Steroid use such as prednisone
- Alcohol abuse
- Cocaine Abuse
- Erosion of the protective layer of the stomach lining
Less common causes can include the following:
- Stress from major surgery or major trauma such as burns
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- Autoimmune disorders such as pernicious anaemia
- Chronic Bile Reflux
- Eating or drinking poisonous substances
- Damage to the blood vessels which supply the stomach
The most common complaint from patients with gastritis is abdominal upset and abdominal pain. Other symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling of fullness
- Loss of apatite
- Burning in the upper abdomen
- Blood in vomit or stools
- Weight Loss
Blood in vomit or stools should be reported immediately to your physician or health care provider.
Risk Factors for developing Gastritis include:
- Regular use of NSAID’s
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol
- Age: People over 60 are at increased risk due to thinning of the stomach lining associated with aging.
- Race and Nationality: Prevalence is higher in developing countries compared to industrialized countries. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native American are at higher risk.
- Socioeconomic status: Gastritis is more prevalent among lower income, less educated persons.
Your doctor will perform the following:
- Medical History
- Physical Examination
Your doctor may suspect Gastritis based upon your history and exam but may order tests to confirm and determine the cause of the gastritis. Some of these tests may include:
- Blood Tests
Blood Tests can determine the presence of H. Pylori antibodies that would indicate exposure to the bacteria in the past, but would not indicate current infection. Blood tests can also be used to check for anaemia related to blood loss.
- Stool Tests
Stool Tests may be ordered to check for the presence of H. Pylori that, if positive, would indicate current infection. Stool tests can also determine if there is blood in the stools.
- Breath Test
Breathe Test to determine current infection of H. Pylori bacteria.
- Upper GI X-rays
This test takes pictures of the upper GI tract after the patient swallows a liquid substance called barium which coats the tract allowing x-ray to get a clearer image.
- EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy)
Another test your doctor may want you to undergo is an EGD. In this procedure a doctor passes a thin tube with a camera, called an endoscope, down the oesophagus and into the stomach and part of the small intestine. This enables the doctor to assess the stomach lining for redness and inflammation associated with gastritis and/or breaks in the tissue such as with ulcerations.
Since stomach acid causes increased irritation of the already inflamed stomach lining, your doctor will prescribe medications to decrease the stomach acid, allowing the stomach lining to heal and the gastritis to resolve.
Some of these acid reducing medications include:
Over the counter antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, and Tums are often prescribed to treat gastritis. These medications help to neutralize stomach acid and provide quick pain relief.
Proton Pump Inhibitors Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are a group of prescription medications that prevent the release of acid in the stomach and intestines. Some examples are Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid.
If your gastritis is caused by an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to clear up the H. pylori infection. Once the underlying problem disappears, the gastritis usually does too. Talk to your doctor before stopping any medicine or starting any gastritis treatment on your own.
Tips for Prevention
Although it is not always possible to prevent exposure to the H. Pylori bacteria, you can reduce your risk of developing gastritis with some of these tips:
- Avoid or limit drinking alcohol that can erode the stomach lining.
- Stop smoking. Smoking causes increased acid production, erosion of stomach lining, and increases your risk of stomach cancer.
- Avoid caffeine during episodes of gastritis as it can increase the pain.