Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining, caused by irritation or infection. It is very common. Gastritis can be chronic or acute. Acute gastritis shows sudden symptoms, while the chronic type is more common. Chronic gastritis develops slowly, in months or years.
Chronic gastritis doesn’t often show any symptoms, but over time, when the stomach lining is damaged, the symptoms could be similar to the ones of an acute gastritis. In acute gastritis, the symptoms occur suddenly and are more severe. In both types, the symptoms are:
- uncomfortable feeling in the upper stomach, especially after a meal
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Hemorrhaging from the stomach lining may be unnoticed until it comes to anemia, due to lower level of iron, causing fatigue and paleness. If hemorrhaging is excessive, blood is seen during vomiting or in the stool, which turns dark and black.
In atrophic gastritis there are usually no pains, but the symptoms are same as the ones in a severe anemia, due to lack of B12 vitamin. Atrophic gastritis causes damage of the stomach, which can no longer produce the so-called internal factor, a substance without which this vitamin absorption is impossible. People with chronic gastritis, especially atrophic gastritis, have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer.
Acute gastritis is developed in damaged stomach lining in case of excessive intake of alcohol or regularly taking aspirin, or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Acute gastritis may develop after a severe disease or condition, for e.g. sepsis.
The cause of chronic gastritis is most often the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which lives in the stomach lining. The bacteria damages the mucous layer that protects the stomach lining from the digestive juices, as the stomach acid starts damaging the lining. Chronic gastritis may be accompanied by Crohn’s disease, a disease that causes inflammatory processes in the digestive tract. Long-term use of alcohol, smoking, and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugscan also cause chronic gastritis.
Less common cause is if you have an autoimmune disease, like Hashimoto’s thyroid disease or type 1 diabetes.
The risk factors for developing gastritis include:
- helicobacter pylori
- genetics (in some types of gastritis)
- excessive alcohol use
- autoimmune gastritis
- other diseases
Complications can arise if gastritis is not treated, such as:
- Stomach hemorrhaging
- Stomach ulcers or polyps
- Stomach cancer, although rarely
Gastritis can be prevented with healthy lifestyle, healthy food, not smoking or drinking too much alcohol or drugs. Stress should be avoided as much as possible. To prevent gastritis from bacteria, hygiene (washing hands regularly) is obligatory and eating cooked food. There are some indications that the bacteria could be spread from person to person or through contaminated food or water.