What is gastritis?
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining resulting in abdominal pain, possible bleeding, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Gastritis can be acute, coming and going quickly, or chronic, in which case the disease can last months or even years. Gastritis can also be characterized as erosive, meaning that it wears away at the stomach lining, or non-erosive.
Erosive gastritis is most commonly caused by alcohol use, tobacco use, and prolonged use of aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Severe illness and consumption of caustic substances have also been associated with the development of erosive gastritis. The most common cause of chronic, nonerosive gastritis is a stomach infection caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria found in up to half of all people in industrialized nations (Source: NDDIC).
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The signs and symptoms of gastritis can be constant or sporadic, and the disease course varies among individuals. If infection with H. pylori bacteria is the cause, symptoms will remain as long as the infection is untreated. Some people with gastritis have no symptoms at all, while others may have burning abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
In the case of H. pylori-related gastritis, the infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics. For gastritis not caused by H. pylori, medications that reduce stomach acid can be an effective treatment. You can reduce your risk of H. pylori infection by following commonsense hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water. Lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol consumption and your use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can reduce the risk of gastritis that is not related to H. pylori.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms such as severe abdominal pain; bloody or black, tarry stools; or bloody or black vomit.
Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for gastritis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.