What is gastritis?

Gastritis: Overview

Gastritis is an upset stomach. It happens when something irritates the stomach lining. Many things can cause gastritis, such as an infection or illness, food or drink, or medicines. Your belly may bloat and ache. You may belch, vomit, and feel sick to your stomach.

Minor stomach upset can be treated at home. Medicines that reduce or block stomach acid may help. If gastritis lasts, your doctor may prescribe medicine.

Gastritis

Gastritis is inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining, which can be caused by some medicines (such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines), overuse of alcohol, bacterial infection, or stomach acid. Symptoms of gastritis include pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, bloating, nausea, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.

Almost everyone has an occasional bout of gastritis. Antacids or stomach acid blockers may help to control the discomfort. Usually home treatment is all that is needed to treat occasional gastritis. If gastritis occurs over and over, a visit to a doctor is needed. Severe gastritis can cause serious bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract.

What are the symptoms of gastritis?

Gastritis can make you feel sick to your stomach. Symptoms may include pain, discomfort, or bloating in the upper part of the belly. You may also have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Gastritis may cause only mild symptoms that come and go. Severe gastritis can cause serious bleeding from the digestive tract.

How is gastritis treated?

If gastritis happens only now and then, you can likely use just home treatment. Limiting alcohol and foods and drinks with caffeine may help. Your doctor may recommend medicines to reduce stomach acid or treat a bacterial infection. Or the doctor may recommend avoiding aspirin or ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs.

How is gastritis diagnosed?

You may need blood tests, a stool test, or a breath test to check for an infection, such as one caused by H. pylori, in the stomach. You may have a endoscopy. In some cases, the doctor may want to test a sample of tissue from the intestine. This test is called a biopsy.

How can you care for yourself when you have gastritis?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Be safe with medicines. If your doctor prescribed medicine to decrease stomach acid, take it as directed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not take any other medicine, including over-the-counter pain relievers, without talking to your doctor first.
  • If your doctor recommends over-the-counter medicine to reduce stomach acid, such as Pepcid AC (famotidine) or Prilosec (omeprazole), follow the directions on the label.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse. These may include chocolate, mint, alcohol, pepper, spicy foods, high-fat foods, or drinks with caffeine in them, such as tea, coffee, colas, or energy drinks. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating it to see if your symptoms get better.

What causes gastritis?

Many things can cause gastritis, such as:

  • Medicines that can damage the stomach lining. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Excess stomach acid. This can damage the stomach lining.
  • An infection with Helicobacter pylori ( H. pylori). This is a type of bacteria that can cause ulcers.
  • Eating certain foods or drinking too much alcohol.
  • Stress from a severe injury, serious illness, or major surgery.
  • An autoimmune response. The body's immune system may attack and damage the stomach lining.
  • Low levels of iron or vitamin B12.

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is an upset stomach. It happens when something irritates the stomach lining. Normally, a layer of mucus protects the stomach lining. If gastritis occurs for a long time, part of this lining may wear away. This causes sores called ulcers.

Gastritis: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe belly pain.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or feel like you may faint.
  • You have trouble breathing or are breathing faster and passing only a little urine.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You have signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.
  • You have nausea or vomiting and can't keep fluids down.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.
  • You have new or more blood in your stools or your stools are black and tarlike.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms.
  • You are losing weight.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.