Gastritis is a condition which can be quite painful. However, in some cases there will be no pain at all. It is classified by the inflammation of the mucosa; lining in the stomach. When the lining in the stomach becomes inflamed there is a negative reaction. A healthy stomach lining produces acids and enzymes that help to break down food for optimal digestion. An inflamed stomach lining will produce much less of these, resulting in problems such as gastritis.
Types of Gastritis
Gastritis can be something which is temporary and goes away after a short period of time, much like a stomach virus. However, there are cases of extreme and chronic gastritis that will require much more medical attention. If this type of gastritis is not treated properly it could become a condition which lasts for many years, or even for an entire lifetime. There is also erosive gastritis in this there is not quite as much inflammation but rather the stomach lining is worm away, resulting in ulcers, erosions and commonly bleeding. This type of gastritis could be chronic or acute, depending on the situation.
The term gastritis is quite vague as it simply refers to unusual inflammation within the stomach lining. Most individuals who have gastritis will experience some pain and suffering in the higher region of the abdomen. Typically, this is described as a bloated feeling, causing pressure. Other people who have gastritis will experience little to no symptoms at all. In some cases, the term gastritis is misused to describe any type of bloating or discomfort in the upper abdomen, not necessarily related to gastritis at all.
Other Disturbances Which Can Be Mistaken for Gastritis
Often, the foods we eat do not agree with our digestive systems. This could lead to gas, diarrhea and/or vomiting. Sometimes when someone has a severe case of indigestion, the initial diagnosis may be gastritis when in fact that is not the case. Heartburn is also sometimes thought to be a symptom of gastritis when there is actually something else going on such as acid reflux or even GERD. Stomach discomfort can occur for a number of reasons. Even allergies to certain foods can cause an excess of gas. People who have allergies to lactose often notice severe gas being one of the main symptoms.
Sometimes more serious conditions, such as cancer or other life threatening illnesses are misdiagnosed as gastritis. If a person is having a problem with stomach issues that last a long period of time, and do not seem to get better with treatment then a reevaluation is a good suggestion. There is never any harm in receiving a second opinion. This is especially true when dealing with matters related to the stomach and digestive system.
The Major Causes of Gastritis
Most cases of what we call chronic non-erosive gastritis are caused by a bacterium known as H. pylori or Helicobacter pylori. This bacteria infects the lining of the stomach and can be transmitted from individual to individual. In addition, areas which have improper or even poor sanitation such as third world countries have a much higher incidence of this bacteria being transferred to people via water and food which are contaminated. This is one reason people are often told never to drink the water in a country that is underdeveloped.
Even in more civilized countries such as the US there is still a chance that anywhere from twenty to fifty percent of the population could become infected with Helicobacter pylori. In areas that are more widely populated the risk is much higher than in rural areas. This is especially true if the city standards are low in terms of water sanitation. This is seen most in major metropolises such as New York City, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. However, by far the most common cause of what we call erosive gastritis is the ingestion of anti-inflammatory drugs, namely the non-steroidal variation for a long period of time. Examples of this type of drug include ibuprofen and aspirin. Street drugs and alcohol have also been associated with erosive gastritis.
Other Causes of Gastritis
While the above listed are the most common and prevalent causes of gastritis, there are other things which can cause the illness. Stress is a major culprit when it comes to gastritis. This stress can be due to trauma class injuries, major surgeries, critical illnesses and even severe burns. This is commonly referred to as “Stress Gastritis.” Additionally, people suffering from disorders of the immune system, such as people with HIV/AIDS can be susceptible to gastritis. This is because an unhealthy immune system may attack cells which are actually healthy in the stomach lining.
Illnesses such as Pernicious Anemia and Crohn’s Disease have been known to cause gastritis as well. In addition, there are other viruses, bacteria and fungi aside from H. pylori which can also lead to gastritis. Most of the time, these are much milder cases. However, in some cases severe gastritis could ensue no matter what the initial cause. This is usually dependent on the patient and the overall state of health. For example, young babies and elderly adults with compromised immune systems are often hit much harder by the factors which cause gastritis than healthy adults.
Symptoms of Gastritis
The most obvious gastritis symptoms are a stomach ache that feels much like indigestion, bloating and gas. The feeling may be that of fullness as a result of all the gas present in the stomach. In some cases of gastritis vomiting and diarrhea may be present as well. The one thing to keep in mind is that gastritis does not always have symptoms related to it. In some cases a person may not even know gastritis is present. This can lead to damage to the lining of the stomach, especially if the gastritis is erosive.
With gastritis there are clear cut times in which a doctor should be consulted. First and foremost, if there is ever any blood present anywhere in the stool or in the vomit, this is considered a medical emergency and should be treated as such. If there are symptoms of gastritis that continue for longer than 7 days then a doctor should be seen. In addition, if any pain medication over the counter has been taken, resulting in symptoms of gastritis, this is a very important piece of information to tell the doctor.
Gastritis Treatment and Diagnosis
There are several types of chronic gastritis symptoms and treatment options. The type of treatment will depend on the cause in most cases. If the gastritis has been caused by the H. Pylori bacterium then an antibiotic such as Clarithromycin, Amoxicillin, Tetracycline or Flagyl will typically be prescribed. Most of the time, the course will be for 10 days to two weeks. Gastritis treatment duration will depend largely on the drug which is prescribed. Acid reducers such as Prilosec, Prevacid or other proton pump inhibitors. Medications that work to sooth the stomach and reduce pain such as Zantac or Pepcid may also be used to treat gastritis. In severe cases of erosive gastritis in which there is bleeding present, hospitalization is sometimes necessary but most often gastritis treatment at home is the standard.
Diagnosing gastritis is not necessarily difficult. It is simply a matter of testing for the right thing. Most of the time doctors will begin by testing for the most obvious causes of gastritis such as H pylori. H. pylori can be found through either a stool, blood or breath test. The breath test is done after the patient drinks an eight ounce glass of a clear fluid which contains a radioactive carbon substance. After the chemical breaks down in the stomach then the patient blows into a bag. That bag is sealed and sent off to the lab for testing. If that test comes back negative then scopes may be used to look at the area and detect any sign of erosion. Often an x-ray of the upper abdominal area will indicate the presence of excess gas and in some cases this is all a doctor will need to determine gastritis. When undergoing gastritis treatment, foods to avoid may be another consideration.
While gastritis is a painful condition that can cause a lot of discomfort, it is not usually life threatening. Gastritis symptoms and treatment methods are usually quite easy. There are some situations in which secondary infections or complications occur but for the most part this illness is more of a nuisance than anything else. If you or someone you know has any of the symptoms of gastritis, it is best to get that person to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The sooner treatment is started; the faster relief and healing will begin. Remember, untreated gastritis could lead to other, more severe complications. If gastritis is suspected it is important to be sure a diagnosis is received as soon as possible. When it comes to medical conditions which could cause internal harm, it is always best to err on the side of caution. The same is true for gastritis or other abdominal issues.