What is gastritis?

Gastritis (also called dyspepsia) is an inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic). Chronic gastritis occurs in two of every 10,000 people; acute gastritis is more common, occurring in eight of every 1,000 people.

What causes gastritis?

Gastritis can be caused by irritation due to excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, stress, or the use of certain medications, such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs. It may also be caused by any of the following:

  • Helicobacter pylori: A bacteria that lives in the mucous lining of the stomach. Without treatment, the infection can lead to ulcers and, rarely, stomach cancer.
  • Pernicious anemia: A form of anemia that occurs when the stomach lacks a naturally occurring substance that is needed to properly absorb and digest vitamin B12
  • Bile reflux: A backflow of bile (a liquid that is secreted by the liver and helps with digestion) into the stomach
  • Infections caused by bacteria and viruses
  • Autoimmune disorders

If gastritis is not treated, it can lead to severe blood loss or, in rare cases, can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.

What are the symptoms of gastritis?

Symptoms of gastritis vary among individuals; many people have no symptoms. The most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Hiccups
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting blood or coffee ground-like material
  • Black, tarry stool

How is gastritis diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your personal and your family medical history and perform a thorough physical evaluation. Your doctor may recommend any of these tests to diagnose gastritis:

  • Endoscopy. The doctor eases an endoscope, a thin tube containing a tiny camera, through your mouth and down into your stomach to look at the stomach lining. The doctor will check for inflammation and may perform a biopsy, a procedure in which a tiny sample of tissue is removed and then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
  • Blood test. The doctor may check your red blood cell count to learn if you have anemia, which means that you do not have enough red blood cells.
  • Stool test. This test checks for blood in your stool, which is a sign of gastritis.

Should I have my blood tested for levels of certain vitamins and minerals if I have gastritis?

If you have a gastrointestinal disease that leads to significant malabsorption (poor absorption of vitamins and nutrients by the intestine), your doctor may measure the levels of certain vitamins and minerals in your blood. Atrophic gastritis, for example, is a condition that specifically leads to the malabsorption of vitamin B12. This vitamin can be measured in your blood.

If your routine laboratory tests (including a complete blood count and a chemistry panel) are normal, you do not need a measurement of your blood vitamin or mineral levels.

If you are found to be anemic and your doctor believes it is a result of a nutrient deficiency, he or she may measure the level of iron in your blood. Iron, in fact, is the only mineral for which blood levels are linked to the total amount of iron that is stored in your body.

How is gastritis treated?

Treatment for gastritis usually involves taking antacids and other drugs to reduce stomach acid. These medications will help relieve symptoms and promote healing. Also, avoiding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help.

For gastritis caused by Helicobacter pylori, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Once the underlying problem disappears, the gastritis usually does, too. You should talk to your doctor before stopping any medicine or starting any gastritis treatment.

What is the prognosis (outlook) for patients who have gastritis?

Most cases of gastritis improve quickly once treatment has been started.


  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Gastritis Accessed 1/18/2016.
  • PubMed Health. Gastritis: Overview Accessed 1/18/2016.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/18/2016...#10349