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.