The lining of the stomach, the mucosa, contains cells that produce acid, enzymes, and mucus. Gastritis is an inflammation of the mucosa. This inflammations results in the production of less acid, enzymes, and mucus. There are four types of gastritis: acute, chronic, stress, and erosive. Acute happens suddenly with severe inflammation, while chronic is inflammation that lasts for a long time. Stress gastritis causes acute, erosive gastritis and is differentiated only by it’s cause. Erosive gastritis does not cause severe inflammation, but can wear away at the mucosa and can cause bleeding, erosions, or ulcers.
The most common cause of chronic gastritis is an infection of the helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. Prolonged use of NSAIDs is the most common cause of erosive gastritis, along with alcohol use, cocaine, and radiation. Stress gastritis can be triggered by trauma, severe burns, and surgery.
Chronic gastritis does not cause any symptoms. Over time, this type of gastritis becomes a risk factor for the development of peptic ulcer disease, gastric polyps, and both benign and cancerous tumors in the stomach.
Some patients with gastritis experience no significant symptoms, others experience upper abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. In the case of erosive gastritis, bleeding may occur and appear in vomit or in the stool. Blood in the stool may appears as bright red or black and tarry. Blood in the stool should never be ignored.
To confirm a diagnosis of gastritis, a upper endoscopy is needed. Biopsies of the stomach will confirm the inflammation and, in the case of H. pylori, the cause.
Depending on the diagnosis of type and cause, different medications are necessary. Most medications are aimed at reducing the amounts of acid produced or neutralizing the effect of the acid. If H. pylori is involved, two antibiotics are needed in addition to a protein pump inhibitor (PPI), such as Nexium.