The term gastritis refers to inflammation of the stomach lining, a condition that has many potential causes.
Gastritis may be acute or chronic. If the onset is severe and sudden, it is called acute gastritis and if it lasts for a long time, it is called chronic gastritis. If left untreated, chronic gastritis may last for years. Erosive gastritis includes inflammation as well as erosion or ulceration of the stomach lining. Bleeding may also occur.
Acute gastritis may be caused by toxins, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and excessive alcohol consumption. Other causes of acute gastritis include major surgery, trauma, burns or severe infection. Acute gastritis may also occur as a result of bariatric (weight loss) procedures that involve banding or reconstructing the digestive tract.
Long term or chronic gastritis can be caused by infections with bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori. Certain diseases can also predispose to gastritis and these include chronic bile reflux, pernicious anemia and autoimmune disorders. Excessive stress can also cause gastritis.
Some of the common symptoms of gastritis include:
- Abdominal pain, especially in the upper abdomen
- Changes in bowel habits or abdominal upset
- Abdominal bloating,
Some examples of the steps taken to diagnose gastritis are described below:
- A detailed history of the patient’s symptoms is obtained including their severity, frequency and any possible triggers. The patient is also asked about any relevant lifestyle factors such as alcohol intake, smoking, dietary habits and the use of medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- A gastroscopy may be performed, which is a type of upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. The procedure involves an endoscope being inserted into the patient’s stomach to examine the internal walls of the esophagus and stomach. This procedure is often used to confirm a diagnosis. If metaplasia (pre-cancerous changes) or gastric cancer is suspected, a biopsy sample may also be taken from the affected area.
- Blood tests may be carried out to check for Helicobacter pylori as well as to check blood cell counts and the function of the liver, kidneys, gall bladder and pancreas.
- A series of X-rays may be used to generate images to check the stomach, esophagus and small intestine for any abnormalities. Also called a barium swallow, the procedure involves swallowing a contrast medium containing barium, which highlights any abnormality during the imaging study.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc