What is gastritis?

Your stomach has a protective lining of mucus called the mucosa. This lining protects your stomach from the strong stomach acid that digests food. When something damages or weakens this protective lining, the mucosa becomes inflamed, causing gastritis. A type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is most common bacterial cause of gastritis.

What’s the difference between gastritis and indigestion?

Gastritis symptoms can mimic indigestion symptoms. Indigestion is pain or discomfort in the stomach associated with difficulty in digesting food. It maty be a feeling of burning between your lower ribs. You may hear indigestion referred to by its medical term, dyspepsia.

How common is gastritis?

Acute (sudden) gastritis affects about eight out of every 1,000 people. Chronic, long-term gastritis is less common. It affects approximately two out of 10,000 people.

Who might get gastritis?

Your risk of developing gastritis goes up with age. Older adults have thinner stomach linings, decreased circulation and a slower metabolism of mucosal repair. Older adults are also more likely to be on medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can cause gastritis. About two-thirds of the world's population is infected with H. pylori. Fortunately, it is less common in the United States. In the United States, H. pylori is found more often in older adults and lower socioeconomic groups.

What are the types of gastritis?

There are two main types of gastritis:

  • Erosive (reactive): Erosive gastritis causes both inflammation and erosion (wearing away) of the stomach lining. This condition is also known as reactive gastritis. Causes include alcohol, smoking, NSAIDs, corticosteroids, viral or bacterial infections and stress from illnesses or injuries.
  • Non-erosive: Inflammation of the stomach lining without erosion or compromising the stomach lining.

What causes gastritis?

Gastritis occurs when something damages or weakens the stomach lining (mucosa). Different things can trigger the problem, including:

  • Alcohol abuse: Chronic alcohol use can irritate and erode the stomach lining.
  • Autoimmune disease: In some people, the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the stomach lining.
  • Bacterial infection: H. pylori bacteria are the main cause of chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcers). The bacteria break down the stomach’s protective lining and cause inflammation.
  • Bile reflux: The liver makes bile to help you digest fatty foods. “Reflux” means flowing back. Bile reflux occurs when bile flows back into the stomach instead of moving through the small intestine.
  • Medications: Steady use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids to manage chronic pain can irritate the stomach lining.
  • Physical stress: A sudden, severe illness or injury can bring on gastritis. Often, gastritis develops even after a trauma that doesn’t involve the stomach. Severe burns and brain injuries are two common causes.

What are the symptoms of gastritis?

Many people with gastritis don’t have symptoms. People who do have symptoms often mistake them for indigestion. Other signs of gastritis include:

Is gastritis contagious?

Gastritis isn’t contagious, but the bacteria, H. pylori, can be contagious via the fecal-to-oral route. Good hand washing before handling of foods and good proper sanitation-sewer water lines are first line of defense against spread. Many people can develop gastritis after being infected with H. pylori bacteria.

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