What does gastritis feel like?

Gastritis causes abdominal pain, nausea and other symptoms.
Gastritis causes abdominal pain, nausea and other symptoms.

Usually, individuals with gastritis complain of episodes of gnawing, piercing pain in the stomach. This pain may either worsen or get better when eating or vomiting. People with gastritis may have uncomfortable feelings in their upper stomach just below the breastbone and above the belly button. Apart from pain and discomfort, patients also complain of the symptoms below 

In severe cases of gastritis, patients may also complain of chest pains, shortness of breath, weakness, or inability to tolerate any foods or liquids by the mouth along with high grade fever. Severe gastritis requires immediate medical attention.

What is the difference between gastritis and gastroenteritis?

Most people confuse gastritis with gastroenteritis. However, they are different conditions.

  • Gastroenteritis is inflammation (irritation) of the stomach and intestines,which is definitely caused by an infection.
  • Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining which is specifically and not always caused by an infection.

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is a condition in which the lining of the stomach becomes red and swollen due to various causes. The lining of the stomach produces acid and other substances that help break down the nutrients in food. The stomach lining also produces mucus to protect the stomach from the acid it produces. During gastritis, this lining becomes impaired and cannot protect the stomach from the acid it produces. This damages the stomach cells and may lead to ulcers and bleeding. Gastritis is a common condition with a wide range of causes. For most people, gastritis may not be serious and improves quickly if treated. However, untreated gastritis may last for years.

What causes gastritis?

The causes of gastritis include the following

  • Regular intake of spicy food may irritate the stomach lining.
  • Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that lives in the mucus lining of the stomach; without treatment, the infection can lead to ulcers and stomach cancer.
  • Bile reflux is a backflow of digestive juices called bile into the stomach from the bile tract that connects to the liver and gallbladder.
  • Excessive use of cocaine or alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Regularly taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen or other painkillers
  • Stressful event (such as a bad injury, critical illness, or intentional or accidental ingestion of toxins or poisons or major surgery)
  • An autoimmune reaction-when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells and tissues (in this case, the stomach lining)
  • Pernicious anemia is a form of anemia that occurs when the stomach can’t digest vitamin B-12 and can irritate the stomach lining.

How is gastritis treated?

The treatment goal with gastritis is to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach to relieve symptoms, allowing the stomach lining to heal and to tackle any underlying cause.

Medications

  • Antacids: These over-the-counter medicines neutralize the acid in the stomach, which can provide rapid pain relief.
  • Histamine 2 (H2) blockers: These medicines reduce acid production allowing the stomach lining to heal.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): These medicines reduce acid production even more effectively than H2 blockers (such as omeprazole).
  • If gastritis is caused by pernicious anemia, B12 vitamin shots may be given.
  • For gastritis caused by H. pylori infection, the doctor will prescribe a regimen of several antibiotics plus an acid blocking drug (used for heartburn).

Diet and lifestyle changes

  • Avoid hot spicy, acidic or fried foods and eliminate irritating foods from the diet such as lactose from dairy or gluten from wheat.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Avoid or cut down on alcohol and quit smoking.
  • Manage stress.

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What are the possible complications of gastritis?

Severe gastritis hurts the stomach lining. It may also increase the risk of other health problems. These include the following

  • Peptic ulcer disease: This causes painful sores in the upper digestive tract.
  • Gastric polyps: These are small masses of cells that form on the inside lining of the stomach. 
  • Stomach cancer: They can be aggressive or nonaggressive. Gastritis due to H. pylori infection increases the risk of stomach cancer.
  • Atrophic gastritis: This can happen if gastritis is caused by H. pylori bacteria or by an autoimmune disorder. Atrophic gastritis destroys the stomach lining cells that make digestive juices. This increases the risk of getting stomach cancer. It can also cause low levels of certain vitamins in the blood.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/26/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Mayo Clinic