This article is for information only and doesn't call for any action.


A couple of months ago I noticed that no matter how much I cleaned my teeth, the smell from my mouth remains. I decided to go to the doctor. After the examination, my treating doctor said that I have gastritis. This is a very unpleasant thing, it happens when the walls of the stomach become thin and weak. The doctor recommended that I give up my favorite marine ducks.

Another photo of  sea ducks.

It's time to tell more about gastritis.

Gastritis is very common. It occurs when the lining of your stomach becomes swollen (inflamed). Gastritis is usually mild and resolves without any treatment. However, gastritis can cause pain in the upper part of your tummy (abdomen) and may lead to a stomach ulcer.

Some simple changes to your lifestyle and using over-the-counter antacid medicines are often all that is required. Other medicines to reduce the acid in your stomach are sometimes needed. Gastritis usually resolves without any problems. However, if not treated properly, gastritis can last a long time or may lead to a stomach ulcer or anaemia.

IN THIS ARTICLE

  • What is gastritis?
  • How common is gastritis?
  • What causes gastritis?
  • What are the symptoms of gastritis?
  • What else might it be?
  • What tests may be done?
  • What are the treatments for gastritis?
  • What are the possible complications of gastritis?
  • What is the outlook?

What is gastritis?

Gastritis means inflammation of the stomach lining. This means that the lining of your stomach becomes swollen and painful. The irritation may be caused by an infection or a chemical reaction, such as a medicine you're taking or drinking too much alcohol (see below).

How common is gastritis?

Gastritis is very common. However, gastritis is often mild and resolves without any treatment. Severe gastritis is much less common.

What causes gastritis?

Your stomach normally produces acid to help with the digestion of food and to kill germs (bacteria). This acid is corrosive, so some cells on the inside lining of the stomach produce a natural mucous barrier. This protects the lining of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine (the duodenum). There is normally a balance between the amount of acid that you make and the mucous defense barrier. Gastritis may develop if there is an alteration in this balance, allowing the acid to damage the lining of the stomach.

Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori gastritis)

Infection with H. pylori is the cause in about 8 in 10 cases of stomach ulcer. More than a quarter of people in the UK become infected with H. pylori at some stage in their lives. Once you are infected, unless treated, the infection usually stays for the rest of your life. See the separate leaflet called Stomach Pain (Helicobacter Pylori) for more information.

Anti-inflammatory medicines - including aspirin

Anti-inflammatory medicines are sometimes called non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Many people take an anti-inflammatory medicine for joint inflammation (arthritis), muscular pains, etc. These medicines sometimes affect the mucous barrier of the stomach and allow acid to cause an ulcer. About 2 in 10 stomach ulcers are caused by anti-inflammatory medicines.

Other causes

A stressful event - such as a bad injury or critical illness, or major surgery. Exactly why stress and serious illness can lead to gastritis is not known. However, it may be related to decreased blood flow to the stomach.

Less commonly, gastritis can be caused by an autoimmune reaction - when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells and tissues (in this case, the stomach lining). This may happen if you already have another autoimmune condition, such as Hashimoto's thyroid disease or type 1 diabetes.

Other causes of gastritis include cocaine abuse or drinking too much alcohol. Occasionally viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria other than H. pylori are the culprits.

What are the symptoms of gastritis?

Many people with gastritis don't have any symptoms. However, gastritis can cause indigestion (dyspepsia). See the separate leaflet called Indigestion (Dyspepsia).

Gastritis may start suddenly (acute) or may develop slowly and last for a long period of time (chronic).

Pain in your upper tummy (abdomen) just below the breastbone (sternum) is the common symptom. It usually comes and goes. It may be eased if you take antacid tablets. Sometimes food makes the pain worse. The pain may also wake you from sleep.

Other symptoms which may occur include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Bloating.
  • Retching.
  • Feeling sick (nausea).
  • Being sick (vomiting).
  • You may feel particularly 'full' after a meal.

What else might it be?

Don't assume that stomach pain is always a sign of gastritis - the pain could be caused by a wide range of other things, such as a non-ulcer dyspepsia, duodenal ulcer, stomach ulcer or irritable bowel syndrome. See the separate leaflet called Abdominal Pain.

See your GP if:

  • You have bad pain in your tummy (abdomen) or feel unwell.
  • You have pain or any other indigestion symptoms lasting for more than a week.
  • The gastritis starts after taking any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter).
  • You are bringing up (vomiting) blood or the colour of the vomit is like coffee.
  • You have any blood in your stools (faeces). (Bleeding from your stomach may make your stools look black.)
  • You have recently lost weight without deliberately trying to diet.

 

Author : Heather Condon

As Third Door Media's paid media reporter, Heather Condon writes about many topics. With more than 15 years of working experience, Heather has held both in-house and agency management positions.