Gastritis | Digestive Health | Loyola Medicine


Overview and Facts about Gastritis

Gastritis is a condition that causes swelling, irritation and inflammation along the lining or mucosa of the stomach. Individuals with gastritis are particularly sensitive to the stomach’s normal acid production due to the stomach mucosa damage caused by inflammation.

Gastritis can be acute (short-lived) or chronic (long-term) depending on the underlying causes. Gastritis can affect the digestive health of men, women and children.

Signs and Symptoms of Gastritis

The most common symptom associated with gastritis is a sensation of pain or burning in the upper abdomen accompanied by a sense of fullness before, during or after eating. In severe cases, individuals may experience black stools or vomit a coffee ground-like material, which indicates that bleeding has occurred in the digestive tract. These severe symptoms may be accompanied by a feeling of dizziness or faintness.

Other symptoms include:

  • Bloody vomit or stool
  • Excessive gas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Upper abdominal discomfort and/or pain

Causes and Risk Factors of Gastritis

Gastritis is caused by inflammation of the stomach lining. Lifestyle factors like smoking, eating spicy foods and consuming large amounts of alcohol are common causes of acute or chronic gastritis.

Although less common, extreme physical or emotional stress is also a relatively common lifestyle factor. If left untreated or unaddressed, gastritis can cause gastric cancer or stomach tumors.

Other risk factors for gastritis include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Consuming corrosive foods or beverages
  • Diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder
  • Food allergies
  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Smoking
  • Stomach infection, such as Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Viral infections that affect the stomach lining

Tests and Diagnosis of Gastritis

A doctor may begin by assessing your medical history and performing a physical exam. In cases of suspected gastritis, an upper endoscopy may be performed to closely examine the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. A barium swallow may also be used to detect signs of gastritis.

A blood test and breath test for Helicobacter pylori infection can be performed to rule out infection as a possible cause. Blood tests can also rule out anemia (low blood platelet count), which is a complication that may arise due to blood loss or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.  

Treatment and Care for Gastritis

Gastritis treatment depends on the severity of the disease and whether it is acute or chronic. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as reduced consumption of foods that irritate the stomach lining, can completely alleviate symptoms.

To reduce the likelihood of viral or bacterial infection, good hygiene, such as washing your hands before eating and after using the bathroom and avoiding certain uncooked or undercooked foods is necessary.

In less severe cases, medications may be administered to treat symptoms. These medications include antacids, proton pump inhibitor drugs and acid-reducing drugs.

In cases of gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori infection, antibiotic treatments are necessary to relieve symptoms.