Gastritis

In this article

What is gastritis? What causes gastritis? What are the symptoms? How is it diagnosed? What treatments are available? What is the outlook?

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is a very common condition in which the inner lining of the stomach becomes inflamed. It may occur as a brief and sudden attack or as an ongoing condition which commonly known as chronic gastritis. Gastritis can be of mild to severe form and can affect anything from one small area of the stomach (antral gastritis / focal gastritis) to the entire stomach lining (diffused gastritis).

What causes gastritis?

Gastritis can be caused by a number of very different factors.

Food and drinks:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Some strong spices
  • Infections:
  • Helicobacter Pylori infection

Drugs:

  • Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, or aspirin

Stress:

  • Work related stress
  • Anxiety
  • Medically stressful situations

Others:

  • Chronic bile reflux
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms?

  • A burning pain in the chest or abdomen
  • The pain may be made better or worse with food
  • A bloated feeling after eating
  • Vague stomach pains
  • Belching (burping)
  • Nausea (feeling like you are going to vomit) • vomiting
  • A loss of appetite
  • Hiccups
  • Sometimes - Diarrhoea

How is it diagnosed?

You may have to under go some special tests for the accurate diagnosis and to exclude other possible diagnoses.

An Upper GI Endoscopy (UGIE) – where a long thin tube with a tiny camera is passed down the oesophagus (food pipe) and into the stomach. A small tissue samples (biopsies) may be taken for further testing.

CLO Test - Done using a small tissue sample (biopsy) taken during the UGIE. This test will indirectly check for the Helicobacter pylori infection.

Biopsy histology - will directly check for the presence of gastritis, it’s severity, presence of cancer or cancer forming cells, H pylori infection and any other change in the inner lining of the stomach.

Helicobacter Pylori antibodies - It is possible to detect these antibodies by having a blood test. If detected, this suggests active or past H. pylori infection.

Helicobacter Pylori antigens - a ‘faecal antigen test’ - a small stool sample is tested for evidence of Helicobacter Pylori. This is a very sensitive test and will tell us whether or not Helicobacter Pylori is in your stomach at the time of testing. It won’t show past infection.

What treatments are available?

The treatment given will be dependant upon the suspected cause of the gastritis. Generally treatment involves medications aimed at reducing acid in your stomach, medication to protect the stomach lining to promoting healing of the stomach lining and sometimes antibiotics to treat infections.

If you smoke, stopping or cutting down will greatly improve it.

If the cause is thought to be Helicobacter Pylori, the results of the biopsy taken during your test will confirm this. If the result is positive, you will be given a course of medication to eradicate the bug.

If you are taking pain relief in the form of aspirin or another NSAID, you should discuss this with your GP to see if there is an alternative drug you could take.

If you take aspirin for general aches and pains, use paracetamol instead.

If the cause is due to bile refluxing into the stomach from the small intestine, you may be prescribed medication to help reduce this.

Avoid foods that you find hard to digest (for example spicy foods)

Learn what brings on or ‘triggers’ your symptoms and avoid it.

What is the outlook?

Gastritis is a easy to manage disease. With proper treatment and dedication from the patient, good relief can be achieved. However, ups and downs of the condition can occur very commonly while being treated and some may relapse after successful treatment. Proper investigation in to the cause is a necessity to employ the suitable treatment in order to achieve long term relief.