Gastritis is a common stomach condition that can affect any person, regardless of age. The condition may be more prevalent in people following certain lifestyles or using particular medications. Gastritis that lasts for a few weeks is called Acute Gastritis, but if the problem extends to months and years the condition is then termed Chronic Gastritis.
What is Gastritis?
Gastritis is a stomach lining inflammation in which the mucous of the stomach lining becomes damaged and eroded. This inflammation is often caused by an autoimmune response, where white blood cells, lymphocytes and collagen are attempting to heal the stomach lining, but instead damage it. An overactive immune response can also have other serious health implications.
What causes Gastritis?
A range of triggers could result in an inflamed stomach lining. Some triggers are more common than others and include H. Pylori bacterial infection, excessive alcohol and/or medication consumption, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Besides these causes others include genetic and autoimmune diseases, such as pernicious anaemia, and viral infection with herpes simplex or cytomegalovirus. Swelling of the stomach lining can also result from acid and bile reflux, disorders of the digestive tract, poisoning and recreational drug abuse. Injury from an accident, attack or surgery can also lead to Gastritis. Treatments with certain medications and oxygen breathing machines can also have this impact.
What are the symptoms of Gastritis?
Symptoms may not be present or may manifest as a painful, bloated or swollen abdomen, belching, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting with weakness, headache and/or fever. If there is bleeding in the digestive tract there may be blood present in faeces or vomit. As symptoms of stomach lining inflammation may be indicative of other diseases or disorders, treatment should be sought immediately.
How is Gastritis diagnosed?
A medical examination and discussion of patient history and lifestyle is necessary for diagnosis. Different tests may be done to identify causes, such as:
- Tests for presence of Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori) bacteria.
- Stool tests to determine internal bleeding.
- Endoscopic tests, called esophagogastroduodenoscopy, to image and determine the health of oesophagus-to-stomach-to-duodenum function.
- Taking blood counts (CBC) to determine levels of red to white blood cells and to check if anaemia is a cause.
Early intervention through diagnosis can help a patient recover sooner and prevent deterioration of symptoms with life-threatening complications.
How is Gastritis treated?
How Gastritis is treated will depend on the cause of the stomach lining inflammation. Each cause can affect the stomach differently. For example, H. Pylori bacteria attack the tissue of the stomach lining and may need a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) treatment, such as Nexium or Prilosec. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, in excess can affect how stomach eicosanoids are biosynthesised, meaning you may have to refrain from taking certain medication to prevent Gastritis.
Other treatments may include H2 antagonists, such as Zantac and Pepcid, antibiotics, cytoprotective agents, like bismuth, or milk and probiotics. Seeking medical diagnosis and advice for treatment is advisable, rather than trying to treat a symptom where a cause has not been identified.
How does Gastritis affect health?
Gastritis can be a sign of poor health function, digestive tract disorder, internal bleeding, bacterial or viral infection and autoimmune deficiency. Although in some people Gastritis may be a result of mild stomach irritation caused by medication or alcohol consumption, in others it may be an indicator of more serious disease, such as cancer. Untreated Gastritis can result in blood loss, causing severe weakness and immunodeficiency, as well as cancer. Having it checked is the best way to prevent Acute Gastritis becoming Chronic and to protect overall health and wellbeing.
How can Gastritis be prevented?
As mentioned above early intervention through medical diagnosis is key for the treatment and prevention of Gastritis. Other preventative measures may include:
- Avoiding foods and drinks that cause stomach inflammation.
- Moderate alcohol consumption.
- Discussing all the medication you take with your doctor to determine what could cause stomach lining erosion or inflammation.
- Practising good hygiene to prevent bacterial or viral infection.
- Getting treatment for autoimmune deficiency to raise your immunity.
- Being aware of poisonous substances and avoiding consumption.
- Protecting the abdominal and stomach area from injury.