Gastritis is a general term for a group of conditions with one thing in common: Inflammation of the lining of the stomach. The inflammation of gastritis is most often the result of infection with the same bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers or the regular use of certain pain relievers. Drinking too much alcohol also can contribute to gastritis.
Gastritis may occur suddenly (acute gastritis) or appear slowly over time (chronic gastritis). In some cases, gastritis can lead to ulcers and an increased risk of stomach cancer. For most people, however, gastritis isn't serious and improves quickly with treatment.
Gastritis doesn't always cause symptoms. When it does, the symptoms of gastritis may include:
- Gnawing or burning ache or pain, called indigestion, in your upper belly. This feeling may become either worse or better after eating.
- A feeling of fullness in your upper abdomen after eating.
When to see a doctor
Nearly everyone has had indigestion and stomach irritation at some point. Usually, indigestion doesn't last long and doesn't require medical care. See your healthcare professional if you have symptoms of gastritis for a week or longer.
Seek medical attention right away if you have severe pain or if you have vomiting where you cannot hold any food down. Also seek attention right away if you feel lightheaded or dizzy. Tell your healthcare professional if your stomach discomfort happens after taking medicines, especially aspirin or other pain relievers.
If you are vomiting blood, have blood in your stools or have stools that appear black, see your healthcare professional right away to find the cause.
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. The stomach lining is a mucus-lined barrier that protects the stomach wall. Weaknesses or injury to the barrier allows digestive juices to damage and inflame the stomach lining. Several diseases and conditions can increase the risk of gastritis. These include inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn's disease.
Factors that increase your risk of gastritis include:
- Bacterial infection. A bacterial infection called Helicobacter pylori, also known as H. pylori, is one of the most common worldwide human infections. However, only some people with the infection develop gastritis or other upper gastrointestinal disorders. Healthcare professionals believe sensitivity to the germs could be inherited. Sensitivity also may be caused by lifestyle choices, such as smoking and diet.
- Regular use of pain relievers. Pain relievers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDs, can cause both acute gastritis and chronic gastritis. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox DS). Using these pain relievers regularly or taking too much of these medicines may damage the stomach lining.
- Older age. Older adults have an increased risk of gastritis because the stomach lining tends to thin with age. Older adults also have an increased risk because they are more likely to have H. pylori infection or autoimmune disorders than younger people are.
- Excessive alcohol use. Alcohol can irritate and break down your stomach lining. This makes your stomach more vulnerable to digestive juices. Excessive alcohol use is more likely to cause acute gastritis.
- Stress. Severe stress due to major surgery, injury, burns or severe infections can cause acute gastritis.
- Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy medicines or radiation treatment can increase your risk of gastritis.
Your own body attacking cells in your stomach. Called autoimmune gastritis, this type of gastritis occurs when your body attacks the cells that make up your stomach lining. This reaction can wear away at your stomach's protective barrier.
Autoimmune gastritis is more common in people with other autoimmune disorders. These include Hashimoto's disease and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune gastritis also can be associated with vitamin B-12 deficiency.
- Other diseases and conditions. Gastritis may be associated with other medical conditions. These may include HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, sarcoidosis and parasitic infections.
Left untreated, gastritis may lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. Rarely, some forms of chronic gastritis may increase your risk of stomach cancer. This risk is increased if you have extensive thinning of the stomach lining and changes in the lining's cells.
Tell your healthcare professional if your symptoms aren't improving despite treatment for gastritis.