Gastritis is the medical term for inflammation of the lining of the stomach. There are two types of gastritis, acute gastritis and chronic gastritis. Acute gastritis occurs suddenly, whereas chronic gastritis develops gradually. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria are known to not only cause inflammation but also lead to the formation of stomach ulcers. Chronic gastritis causes a dull ache in the upper abdomen and produces a sense of fullness after eating a few morsels of food, thereby reducing one's appetite. In some cases, a long-standing stomach ulcer can undergo cancerous changes.
The common symptoms of gastritis are dark colored stools due to the passage of blood, nausea and vomiting of blood or a coffee ground material, belching or flatulence with bloating of the abdomen, indigestion, loss of appetite,and irritability of the bowels. These symptoms usually subside on their own in a week. If they persist for longer, it is best to consult a doctor and get investigated so as to know the cause of the problem.
There are various factors that can give rise to gastritis. H. pylori infection is the commonest cause of the condition. Smoking and alcoholism are known to trigger inflammation of the stomach lining by irritating it and weakening its protective layer. Ceratin drugs, especially anti-inflammatory medications can cause or aggravate symptoms of the disease. Other causes include mechanical or chemical injury to the stomach. Autoimmune diseases like pernicious anemia, excessive acid production under stress, and bile reflux are contributory factors too.
It is advisable to consult a doctor for treating gastritis rather than trying to tackle the symptoms temporarily by the use of over-the-counter antacids. A number of diagnostic investigations like blood tests, esophageogastroduodenoscopy, breath analysis, routine stool test, X-ray of the upper digestive tract, and the like may need to be conducted to find out the underlying cause.
Treatment obviously depends upon the cause of the gastritis. Medicines that decrease or neutralize the excessive acid secreted in the stomach are administered. Gastritis should never be neglected because it can lead to bleeding and stomach ulcers that can give rise to complications like anemia, peritonitis (due to perforation of an ulcer, leading to spilling of the gastric contents into the peritoneal cavity), and cancer.
It is difficult to prevent H. pylori infection. Taking some precautionary measures can help to prevent gastritis. Avoid the prolonged use of irritants like anti-inflammatory drugs, alcohol, or other medicines that could lead to gastritis. Small but frequent meals will help to neutralize the gastric acidity without overloading the gastrointestinal tract. Spicy, fatty, and fried food items are best avoided. You should quit smoking as it irritates the stomach lining, making it more susceptible to gastritis and ulceration. Further, it delays the healing process and causes hyperacidity.
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