Gastritis occurs when the stomach lining becomes inflamed and irritated.
Most cases of gastritis result from an infection caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which is also known to cause stomach ulcer. Excessive alcohol intake and overuse of certain pain relievers are also relevant to the development of gastritis.
Gastritis varies from people to people. Some cases develop and show up suddenly (acute gastritis), while other cases develop gradually over time (chronic gastritis).
If left untreated, gastritis may develop into an even severe condition like ulcer or stomach cancer.
What are the causes?
Aside from the previously mentioned causes, conditions like Crohn’s disease and sarcoidosis can also lead to gastritis.
What are the symptoms?
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of gastritis:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Upper abdominal bloating after eating
- Upper abdominal pain that may improve or worsen after eating
- Loss of appetite
Keep in mind that not all cases of gastritis show signs and symptoms.
What are the risk factors?
Some people more prone to getting gastritis but some factors can enhance the risks of getting it as well.
Infection from bacteria
As previously mentioned, a lot of gastritis cases resulted from an infection caused by Helicobacter pylori. Health experts believe that vulnerability to this bacterium could be a result of bad lifestyle habits.
Examples of these habits include smoking or living by a non-healthy diet. Heredity may also be a factor and the only that cannot be controlled.
Excessive alcohol intake
Too much alcohol is capable of irritating and gradually destroying the stomach lining. Damage to the stomach lining can make the stomach vulnerable to digestive enzymes and juices.
People who drink too much alcohol regularly are susceptible to developing acute gastritis.
Taking pain relievers regularly
Pain relievers like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can contribute to gastritis development, both acute and chronic.
Regular use of these drugs can decrease an important substance in the body that’s responsible for protecting the stomach lining.
The stomach lining has a tendency to become thinner as you age.
This makes older people more susceptible to developing infections or disorders that can eventually lead to gastritis than younger people.
Your body attacks the cells that protect the stomach lining
Also known as autoimmune gastritis, this condition is commonly found in people who suffer autoimmune disorders like diabetes, hHashimoto’sdisease, etc.
Deficiency in vitamin B-12 is also relevant to autoimmune gastritis.
This condition can erode the protective lining of the stomach and increase the risk of gastritis.
How is it diagnosed?
For gastritis to be diagnosed, doctors will of course interview you regarding your medical history and conduct an exam depending on your condition.
Once you are diagnosed with gastritis, you may be subject to undergo the following tests in order to pinpoint the exact cause.
- H. Pylori tests (stool, blood, or breath test). Your doctor may conduct different H.Pylori tests in order to find out if you have an infection that resulted from H.Pylori. The test depends on the situation and the severity of your symptoms. If you’re subject to undergo a breath test, you will be given a tiny glass of clear liquid that has radioactive carbon. This liquid will break down H.Pylori, should you have it in your stomach. You will then blow into a bag that will be sealed later on. That is your breath sample. If it contains the radioactive carbon from the clear liquid, then you’re infected with H. pylori.
- Endoscopy. The doctor/s will use a scope to examine the upper area of your digestive system. During the process, your doctor will pass a flexible tube down the throat, into the esophagus, until it reaches the small intestines. The flexible tube is installed with an endoscope to observe any signs of irritation or inflammation.
- Biopsy. If your doctor finds a suspicious area (an area that seems to be irritated or inflamed), a biopsy may be conducted. The doctor will remove a small tissue from the affected area and use it as a sample to be examined in a laboratory. This test will help recognize if your stomach lining is infected with H. Pylori.
- X-ray. A series of x-ray images can help identify problems in different parts of the upper digestive system. The x-rays will show images of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestines. Your doctor will then scrutinize the x-rays carefully to identify any abnormalities.
How is it treated?
Treating gastritis vary from person to person. Your doctor will issue a treatment depending on what caused your gastritis. Gastritis caused by pain relievers and excessive alcohol can be minimized by letting go of those habits completely.
For other cases, the following medications may be recommended by your doctor:
- Antibiotics. There are antibiotics known to eradicate H. pylori bacteria. If you tested positive for H. Pylori, your doctor may prescribe different antibiotics like amoxicillin, clarithromycin, metronidazole, etc. to be taken for up to two weeks.
- Medicines that can block acid production. Proton pump inhibitors like esomeprazole, dexlansoprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole, and rabeprazole and acid blockers like ranitidine, cimetidine, famotidine, and nizatidine can aid in reducing acid production inside the body. The acid reduction can relieve pain caused by gastritis and eventually heal the digestive system. Note that long-term use of the aforementioned proton pump inhibitors can enhance the risk of developing different fractures. Always ask your doctor for the right dosage and what supplements should accompany the following drugs in order to minimize that risk.
- Antacids. Antacids help regulate acid production inside the stomach. Your doctor may recommend antacids along with other medications. Side effects of antacids include constipation and diarrhea.
How is it prevented?
It is still unclear how H.pylori develops, but studies show that it can be acquired from contaminated water and food.
This bacterium can also be transmitted from one person to another. A simple way to prevent yourself from getting H. Pylori is by always washing your hands clean and eating only fully cooked meals.
When should I seek medical attention?
Stomach irritation and indigestion may be felt once in a while, with most cases subsiding without requiring any medical treatment.
However, if you’re suffering the same symptoms for more than a week, it is best to have yourself checked by a doctor.
Explain to your doctor the different symptoms that you’ve been observing and your doctor will most likely conduct different tests to determine whether you have gastritis or not.
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