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Home >> Specialities >> Gastroenterology >> Gastritis

Gastritis

The stomach is a vital organ responsible for digesting food and breaking it down into nutrients that the body can absorb. The stomach lining is equipped with a protective layer of mucus that shields it from the corrosive effects of stomach acid. Gastritis occurs when this protective lining becomes inflamed or eroded, allowing stomach acid to damage the underlying tissue.

Causes of Gastritis
Gastritis can be triggered by a variety of factors, with the most common causes including:

  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) Infection: This bacterium is a leading cause of gastritis. It can disrupt the stomach's protective mechanisms and lead to inflammation.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Chronic alcohol abuse can irritate and inflame the stomach lining, increasing the risk of gastritis.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Regular use of NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen can erode the stomach lining and contribute to gastritis.
  • Stress: Although stress alone does not directly cause gastritis, it can exacerbate existing symptoms and delay healing.
  • Autoimmune Conditions: In rare cases, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the stomach lining, leading to autoimmune gastritis.
  • Infections: Other infections, apart from H. pylori, can also cause gastritis, such as viral infections and fungal overgrowth.

Symptoms of Gastritis
The symptoms of gastritis can vary in severity and presentation. Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort: This may range from a dull ache to a sharp, burning sensation.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Gastritis can lead to feelings of nausea, and in some cases, vomiting.
  • Indigestion: Individuals with gastritis may experience bloating, belching, and a feeling of fullness.
  • Loss of appetite: Gastritis can reduce the desire to eat, leading to weight loss.
  • Black, tarry stools: In severe cases, gastritis can cause bleeding in the stomach, which may result in dark stools.
  • Vomiting blood: In rare instances, gastritis can lead to the vomiting of blood, a medical emergency.

Diagnosis of Gastritis
The diagnosis of gastritis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. These may include:

  • Gastroscopy (Endoscopy): A thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) is inserted through the mouth to view the stomach lining directly and take biopsies if needed.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests can help identify H. pylori infection, anaemia, and other markers of inflammation.
  • Stool Tests: Stool samples may be analysed for the presence of blood, which can be a sign of gastritis-related bleeding.
  • Imaging: In some cases, imaging studies like X-rays or CT scans may be used to evaluate the stomach and surrounding structures.

Treatment Options
The treatment of gastritis depends on its underlying cause and severity. Common approaches to managing gastritis include:

  • Medications: Depending on the cause, medications may be prescribed. This can include antibiotics to treat H. pylori infection, acid-suppressing drugs, and medications to protect the stomach lining.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Avoiding triggers such as alcohol, smoking, and NSAIDs can help alleviate gastritis symptoms.
  • Dietary Changes: Following a gastritis-friendly diet, which may involve avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, and acidic foods, can reduce irritation.
  • Stress Management: Managing stress through techniques such as relaxation exercises or counselling can be beneficial in some cases.
  • Treatment of Underlying Conditions: Addressing any underlying medical conditions contributing to gastritis, such as autoimmune disorders, is essential.
  • Monitoring and Follow-Up: Regular follow-up with a healthcare provider is essential to monitor progress and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Prognosis and Outlook
The prognosis for individuals with gastritis is generally favorable, especially when the underlying cause is identified and effectively treated. In many cases, gastritis can be managed or resolved with appropriate medical care and lifestyle modifications.
Gastritis is a common gastrointestinal condition characterized by inflammation of the stomach lining. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, medications, and lifestyle choices. Recognizing the symptoms, seeking prompt medical evaluation, and addressing the underlying causes are key steps in managing gastritis and ensuring a better quality of life for affected individuals.

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