Gastritis

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Overview

The membranes lining the stomach wall protect it from acid and germs. If this protective lining is irritated or damaged, it can become inflamed. Long-lasting inflammations can further damage the stomach lining and lead to stomach (gastric) ulcers.

Gastritis is a general term for a group of conditions with one thing in common: Inflammation of the lining of the stomach. The inflammation of gastritis is most often the result of infection with the same bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers or the regular use of certain pain relievers.

Inflammation of the stomach lining is called gastritis. It's usually caused by certain bacteria or the regular use of anti-inflammatory painkillers.

There are two kinds of gastritis: acute and chronic. Acute gastritis is typically accompanied by very noticeable stomach and bowel problems that usually go away again on their own after a few days. Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, may go unnoticed. Sometimes it's not discovered until stomach ulcers have developed, which then cause noticeable symptoms.

Symptoms

Many people with gastritis don’t have symptoms. People who do have symptoms often mistake them for indigestion. Other signs of gastritis include:


Black, tarry stool.

Bloating.

Nausea and vomiting.

Feeling extra full during or after a meal.

Loss of appetite.

Stomach ulcers.

Losing weight without meaning to.

Upper abdominal (belly) pain or discomfort.

Vomiting blood.



Causes

Gastritis occurs when something damages or weakens the stomach lining (mucosa). Different things can trigger the problem, including:


Alcohol abuse: Chronic alcohol use can irritate and erode the stomach lining.

Autoimmune disease: In some people, the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the stomach lining.

Bacterial infection: H. pylori bacteria are the main cause of chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcers). The bacteria break down the stomach’s protective lining and cause inflammation.

Bile reflux: The liver makes bile to help you digest fatty foods. “Reflux” means flowing back. Bile reflux occurs when bile flows back into the stomach instead of moving through the small intestine.

Medications: Steady use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to manage chronic pain can irritate the stomach lining.

Physical stress: A sudden, severe illness or injury can bring on gastritis. Often, gastritis develops even after a trauma that doesn’t involve the stomach. Severe burns and brain injuries are two common causes.

Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of gastritis include:

Bacterial infection. ...

Regular use of pain relievers. ...

Older age. ...

Excessive alcohol use. ...

Stress. ...

Cancer treatment. ...

Your own body attacking cells in your stomach. ...

Other diseases and conditions.

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Complications

Left untreated, gastritis may lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. Rarely, some forms of chronic gastritis may increase your risk of stomach cancer, especially if you have extensive thinning of the stomach lining and changes in the lining's cells.


Tell your doctor if your signs and symptoms aren't improving despite treatment for gastritis.

Prevention

H. pylori is one of the top causes of gastritis, but most people don’t know they’re infected. The bacteria are easily transmitted. You can lower your risk of infection by practicing good hygiene, including hand-washing.


You also can take steps to minimize indigestion and heartburn. These conditions are linked to gastritis. Preventive measures include:


Avoiding fatty, fried, spicy or acidic foods.

Cutting back on caffeine.

Eating smaller meals throughout the day.

Managing stress.

Not taking NSAIDs.

Reducing alcohol consumption.

Not lying down for 2 to 3 hours after a meal.