Gastritis

Gastritis is a condition in which the stomach lining—known as the mucosa—is inflamed, or swollen.

The stomach lining contains glands that produce stomach acid and an enzyme called pepsin. The stomach acid breaks down food and pepsin digests protein. A thick layer of mucus coats the stomach lining and helps prevent the acidic digestive juice from dissolving the stomach tissue. When the stomach lining is inflamed, it produces less acid and fewer enzymes. However, the stomach lining also produces less mucus and other substances that normally protect the stomach lining from acidic digestive juice. 

Gastritis may be acute or chronic:

  • Acute gastritis starts suddenly and lasts for a short time.
  • Chronic gastritis is long lasting. If chronic gastritis is not treated, it may last for years or even a lifetime.

People may be able to reduce their chances of getting gastritis by preventing H. pyloriinfection. No one knows for sure how H. pylori infection spreads, so prevention is difficult. To help prevent infection, health care providers advise people to:

  • wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and before eating
  • eat food that has been washed well and cooked properly
  • drink water from a clean, safe source

Common causes of gastritis include:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
  • damage to the stomach lining, which leads to reactive gastritis
  • an autoimmune response

Some people who have gastritis have pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen—the area between the chest and hips. However, many people with gastritis do not have any signs and symptoms. The relationship between gastritis and a person's symptoms is not clear. The term “gastritis” is sometimes mistakenly used to describe any symptoms of pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen.

When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • upper abdominal discomfort or pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

A health care provider diagnoses gastritis based on the following:

  • medical history
  • physical exam
  • upper GI endoscopy
  • other tests

Health care providers treat gastritis with medications to

  • reduce the amount of acid in the stomach
  • treat the underlying cause