What is Gastritis? Types, Symptoms & Treatments
The innermost layer of the stomach, called the mucosa, is a protective lining made of mucus. This layer protects the stomach from strong stomach acids that aids digestion. Gastritis refers to the damage (inflammation, irritation, or erosion) of the mucosa.
Types of gastritis
There are broadly two types of gastritis:
- Acute gastritis: It refers to the sudden onset of inflammation of the mucosa.
- Chronic gastritis: It refers to the gastritis that has developed slowly over time. In this condition, there is continuous low-grade inflammation of the mucosa.
Studies tell us that nearly 8 in 1000 people develop acute gastritis. Chronic gastritis is less common – around 2 in 10,000 people develop chronic gastritis.
What Causes Gastritis?
Gastritis occurs when there is damage to the inner mucosal lining of the stomach. There are many factors that can cause this damage such as:
- Bacterial infection: Helicobacterium pylori (H.pylori) is the most common bacterial infection that causes gastritis and if left untreated may lead to peptic ulcers.
- Long-term use of painkillers: Painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen irritate the mucosal lining and can cause gastritis.
- Chronic alcohol intake: Excess consumption of alcohol erodes the stomach lining and can cause gastritis.
- Bile reflux: Bile helps to digest fats in the small intestine. Bile reflux is a condition where there is backflow of bile from the small intestine to the stomach- this may lead to gastritis.
- Autoimmune gastritis: It is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the mucosal lining.
- Physical stress: Stress due to surgery, trauma or major illness can trigger gastritis.
Symptoms for Gastritis
The following are the signs and symptoms of gastritis:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Bloating and flatulence
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Sometimes, gastritis may not show any symptoms. On the other hand, severe gastritis may cause blood in stools and vomit.
Gastritis vs Indigestion
Indigestion, by itself is not a condition but a symptom of a gastrointestinal disorder. It encompasses symptoms such as include bloating, abdominal discomfort, belching, feeling too full, and nausea.
Symptoms of gastritis and indigestion are quite similar. Indigestion symptoms tend to occur whenever a person has difficulty in digesting food.
Risks & Complication related to Gastritis
If gastritis is left untreated, one may develop complications such as:
- Peptic ulcers
- Stomach bleeding
- Nutritional deficiencies (vitamin b12, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium)
- Precancerous lesions of the stomach and stomach cancer.
- Perforation of the stomach
- Achlorhydia (inability of stomach to produce sufficient acids for digestion)
- Peritonitis and bowel obstruction.
Complications of gastritis can be life-threatening. Thus, if you experience gastritis symptoms for more than a week, you should consult your doctor. If you have blood in vomit or stool along with other symptoms of gastritis, you must immediately consult your doctor.
Diagnosis of Gastritis
Your doctor would collect your medical history and perform a physical examination. Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following tests:
- Endoscopy: A flexible tube with a lens at one end is inserted through your mouth into your food pipe and then into the stomach. Endoscope can help to view inflammatory changes in the stomach wall. A small tissue sample from the inflamed region can also be collected(biopsy) and sent to pathology to find the cause of inflammation.
- Blood tests: These are done to determine if you have anaemia or infection (H.pylori).
- Stool test: A sample of your stool may be taken to check for the presence of blood and/or H. pyloriin stool.
How is Gastritis Treatment done?
Gastritis is treatable, and the treatment depends on the underlying cause. Medications commonly prescribed for gastritis include:
- Antibiotics: Amoxicillin, metronidazole or clarithromycin (single or in combination) can be prescribed to treat H. pylori infection.
- Proton pump inhibitors: These over-the-counter medications inhibit stomach acid production. They include omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeprazole, etc.
- Antacids: Antacids neutralize the acids present in the stomach and prevents it from acting on the inflamed stomach walls.
Iron supplements can be prescribed if the patient has developed anemia due to gastritis. If gastritis is causing vit B12 anemia, B12 injections can be given to reverse the deficiency.
How to prevent Gastritis?
Some lifestyle measures can help prevent gastritis:
- Practice good hygiene: H. pylori is the most common cause of gastritis. This infection may be prevented by adopting good hygiene measures, for eg: washing hands frequently.
- Eat small meals frequently: Eating smaller meals frequently could lessen the effect of stomach acids on the stomach wall.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol irritates the mucosal lining and thus should be avoided.
- Avoid fried, spicy food: Such foods damage the gastric mucosa.
- Alternative to painkiller meds: If your gastritis is due to painkiller medication, ask your physician about other painkillers that you can use which doesn’t affect the stomach.
Our Gastroenterology department provides Acute and Chronic Gastritis treatment and care. Read more
Dr Mahadevan B
HOD & Senior Consultant -Department of Medical Gastroenterology & Therapeutic Endoscopy
M.B.B.S, MD (Paediatrics), DM (Gastroenterology)