Road Today - - Guest Column: Health -

Gastritis is a gen­eral term used to de­scribe a group of con­di­tions that cause in­flam­ma­tion in the lin­ing of the stom­ach.

Gastritis is bro­ken down into two cat­e­gories, acute and chronic. Acute gastritis oc­curs sud­denly whereas chronic has a slower or grad­ual on­set.

The signs and symp­toms of gastritis in­clude pain or a burn­ing feel­ing in the up­per part of the ab­domen that may get worse or bet­ter af­ter eat­ing a meal. In ad­di­tion, nau­sea and vom­it­ing may be ex­pe­ri­enced. How­ever, in some cases of gastritis, the pa­tient does not ex­pe­ri­ence any signs or symp­toms at all.

Al­though any­one can de­velop gastritis, there are a few fac­tors that in­crease your risk. Bac­te­rial in­fec­tion of the stom­ach is one of the most com­mon causes of gastritis.

A bac­te­ria by the name of Heli­cobac­ter py­lori is gen­er­ally the bac­te­ria that leads to in­flam­ma­tion in the stom­ach lin­ing. Re­search has shown that life­style fac­tors such as smok­ing, ex­ces­sive al­co­hol in­take and high stress level makes the body more vul­ner­a­ble to bac­te­rial in­fec­tion. To add to this, reg­u­lar use of an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory med­i­ca­tions such as ibupro­fen, naproxen and as­pirin has been as­so­ci­ated with both acute and chronic gastritis. It is thought that these med­i­ca­tions re­duce the amount of a pro­tec­tive sub­stance present in the stom­ach lin­ing. In rare cases, an au­toim­mune con­di­tion may cause the body to at­tack the cells of the stom­ach. Of­ten­times, au­toim­mune gastritis is linked with B-12 de­fi­ciency.

It is safe to say that al­most ev­ery­one will ex­pe­ri­ence some sort of stom­ach ir­ri­ta­tion in their lives. In most cases, this ir­ri­ta­tion only lasts a few days. How­ever, it is im­por­tant to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion if the symp­toms of gastritis lasts for longer than one week. Un­treated gastritis can lead to more se­ri­ous con­di­tions such as ul­cers and stom­ach bleeds.

A di­ag­no­sis of gastritis is usu­ally reached af­ter tak­ing a de­tailed med­i­cal his­tory and phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. In some cases, more so­phis­ti­cated test­ing may be re­quired. Lab­o­ra­tory tests which look for the pres­ence of bac­te­ria in the stom­ach are com­monly re­quested. Also, vis­ual in­spec­tion of the stom­ach us­ing a small cam­era at­tached to a flex­i­ble tube (en­do­scope) may be nec­es­sary. Fi­nally, x-rays of the up­per diges­tive track may be re­quired to bet­ter vi­su­al­ize the stom­ach lin­ing.

Once the spe­cific cause of gastritis is determined, your doc­tor can pre­pare a treat­ment plan. For ex­am­ple, gastritis caused by Heli­cobac­ter py­lori bac­te­ria is treated us­ing an­tibi­otics. In ad­di­tion, most treat­ment plans in­clude the use of med­i­ca­tions that re­duce the acid pro­duc­tion in the stom­ach. The goal of this med­i­ca­tion is to de­crease stom­ach ir­ri­ta­tion and pro­mote heal­ing of the lin­ing. Antacids may also be rec­om­mended to help with im­me­di­ate symp­tom relief by neu­tral­iz­ing ex­ist­ing stom­ach acid.

As I al­ways say, preven­tion is the best treat­ment. Life­style mod­i­fi­ca­tions such as eat­ing smaller meals and avoid­ing ir­ri­tat­ing foods will lessen your chances of de­vel­op­ing gastritis. Min­i­miz­ing al­co­hol con­sump­tion will also re­duce ir­ri­ta­tion of the stom­ach lin­ing. Fi­nally, al­though it may be dif­fi­cult, it is im­por­tant to re­duce stress in your life.

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