Gastritis is a condition in which the stomach lining—known as the mucosa—is inflamed, or swollen. The stomach lining contains glands that produce stomach acid and an enzyme called pepsin. The stomach acid breaks down food and pepsin digests protein. A thick layer of mucus coats the stomach lining and helps prevent the acidic digestive juice from dissolving the stomach tissue.
When the stomach lining is inflamed, it produces less acid and fewer enzymes. However, the stomach lining also produces less mucus and other substances that normally protect the stomach lining from acidic digestive juice.
Gastritis may be acute or chronic:
Gastritis can be erosive or nonerosive:
Common causes of gastritis include
H. pylori infection. H. pylori is a type of bacteria—organisms that may cause an infection. H. pylori infection
H. pylori infection is common, particularly in developing countries, and the infection often begins in childhood. Many people who are infected with _H. pylori _never have any symptoms. Adults are more likely to show symptoms when symptoms do occur.
Researchers are not sure how the H. pylori infection spreads, although they think contaminated food, water, or eating utensils may transmit the bacteria. Some infected people have H. pylori in their saliva, which suggests that infection can spread through direct contact with saliva or other body fluids.
Reactive gastritis may also be called reactive gastropathy when it causes little or no inflammation.
The causes of reactive gastritis may include
In autoimmune gastritis, the immune system attacks healthy cells in the stomach lining. The immune system normally protects people from infection by identifying and destroying bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful foreign substances. Autoimmune gastritis is chronic and typically nonerosive.
Less common causes of gastritis may include
Some people who have gastritis have pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen—the area between the chest and hips. However, many people with gastritis do not have any signs and symptoms. The relationship between gastritis and a person's symptoms is not clear. The term "gastritis" is sometimes mistakenly used to describe any symptoms of pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen.
When symptoms are present, they may include
A person with any signs or symptoms of bleeding in the stomach should call or see a health care provider right away.
The complications of chronic gastritis may include
A health care provider diagnoses gastritis based on the following:
Taking a medical history may help the health care provider diagnose gastritis. He or she will ask the patient to provide a medical history. The history may include questions about chronic symptoms and travel to developing countries.
A physical exam may help diagnose gastritis. During a physical exam, a health care provider usually
Upper GI endoscopy is a procedure that uses an endoscope—a small, flexible camera with a light—to see the upper GI tract. A health care provider performs the test at a hospital or an outpatient center. The health care provider carefully feeds the endoscope down the esophagus and into the stomach and duodenum. The small camera built into the endoscope transmits a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the GI lining.
A health care provider may give a patient a liquid anesthetic to gargle or may spray anesthetic on the back of the patient's throat before inserting the endoscope. A health care provider will place an intravenous (IV) needle in a vein in the arm to administer sedation. Sedatives help patients stay relaxed and comfortable. The test may show signs of inflammation or erosions in the stomach lining.
The health care provider can use tiny tools passed through the endoscope to perform biopsies. A biopsy is a procedure that involves taking a piece of tissue for examination with a microscope by a pathologist—a doctor who specializes in examining tissues to diagnose diseases. A health care provider may use the biopsy to diagnose gastritis, find the cause of gastritis, and find out if chronic gastritis has progressed to atrophic gastritis.
A health care provider may have a patient complete other tests to identify the cause of gastritis or any complications. These tests may include the following:
Upper GI series is an x-ray exam that provides a look at the shape of the upper GI tract. An x-ray technician performs this test at a hospital or an outpatient center, and a radiologist—a doctor who specializes in medical imaging—interprets the images. This test does not require anesthesia. A patient should not eat or drink before the procedure, as directed by the health care provider.
Patients should check with their health care provider about what to do to prepare for an upper GI series. During the procedure, the patient will stand or sit in front of an x-ray machine and drink barium, a chalky liquid. Barium coats the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine so the radiologist and health care provider can see these organs' shapes more clearly on x-rays.
A patient may experience bloating and nausea for a short time after the test. For several days afterward, barium liquid in the GI tract may cause white or light-colored stools. A health care provider will give the patient specific instructions about eating and drinking after the test.
A health care provider may use blood tests to check for anemia or H. pylori. A health care provider draws a blood sample during an office visit or at a commercial facility and sends the sample to a lab for analysis.
A health care provider may use a stool test to check for blood in the stool, another sign of bleeding in the stomach, and for H. pylori infection. A stool test is an analysis of a sample of stool. The health care provider will give the patient a container for catching and storing the stool.
The patient returns the sample to the health care provider or a commercial facility that will send the sample to a lab for analysis.
A health care provider may use a urea breath test to check for H. pylori_infection. The patient swallows a capsule, liquid, or pudding that contains urea—a waste product the body produces as it breaks down protein. The urea is "labeled" with a special carbon atom. If _H. pylori are present, the bacteria will convert the urea into carbon dioxide. After a few minutes, the patient breathes into a container, exhaling carbon dioxide.
A nurse or technician will perform this test at a health care provider's office or a commercial facility and send the samples to a lab. If the test detects the labeled carbon atoms in the exhaled breath, the health care provider will confirm an H. pylori infection in the GI tract.
Health care providers treat gastritis with medications to
The stomach lining of a person with gastritis may have less protection from acidic digestive juice. Reducing acid can promote healing of the stomach lining. Medications that reduce acid include
Depending on the cause of gastritis, a health care provider may recommend additional treatments.
People may be able to reduce their chances of getting gastritis by preventing H. pylori infection. No one knows for sure how H. pylori infection spreads, so prevention is difficult. To help prevent infection, health care providers advise people to