Gastritis

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What is gastritis?

Gastritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Unfortunately, the term "gastritis" has been misused to include many different upper abdominal problems, but true gastritis refers to the stomach lining (gastric mucosa) that is inflamed. All or part of the gastric mucosa may be involved. Gastritis may be classified as acute or chronic. Acute gastritis maybe characterized as erosive (damaged areas where mucosal cells are disrupted or missing) and nonerosive. Chronic gastritis is determined by histopathology (appearance of the gastric mucosa). This article will focus on true gastritis. Gastritis has many causes, but most causes result in similar symptoms. This has leads to some confusion and is the reason why many health care professionals now consider the term "gastritis" as a non-specific description of a cluster of symptoms.

What causes gastritis?

A major cause of both acute and chronic gastritis is infection of the stomach mucosa by a bacterial species named Helicobacter pylori. Usually, this bacterium first infects the stomach antrum (stomach mucosa without acid-producing cells) acutely and may progress to infect most or all of the stomach's mucosa over time (chronic gastritis) and remain there for years. This infection generates an initial strong inflammatory response and eventually, a long-term chronic inflammation with intestinal cell changes may develop. Another major cause of acute and chronic gastritis is the use (and overuse) of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

However, there are many other causes of gastritis; the following is a list of common causes of both acute and chronic gastritis; chronic gastritis may occur with repeated or continual presence of most of these causes:

  • Bacterial, viral and parasitic infections
  • Certain drugs (cocaine)
  • Alcohol
  • Bile reflux
  • Fungal infections
  • Allergic reactions
  • Stress reaction
  • Radiation
  • Certain food poisonings (infectious and chemical)
  • Trauma

In general, infectious agents, especially Helicobacter pylori, and NSAIDs are responsible for the majority of gastritis patients.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/4/2013

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Gastritis Symptoms

Many people with gastritis do not have any symptoms, but some people experience symptoms such as:

  • upper abdominal discomfort or pain

  • nausea

  • vomiting

These symptoms are also called dyspepsia.

Erosive gastritis may cause ulcers or erosions in the stomach lining that can bleed. Signs of bleeding in the stomach include

  • blood in vomit

  • black, tarry stools

  • red blood in the stool