Abdominal discomfort characterized by inflammation of the lining of the stomach is termed as gastritis. Gastritis develops due to bacterial infection by H.pylori, long term use of pain relievers, injury to the stomach and increased intake of alcohol. Risk factors for gastritis include stress, old age, bile reflex disease, autoimmune gastritis, pernicious anemia or weakened mucous layer that normally protects stomach from action of acid causes digestive juices to act on stomach resulting in inflammation.
Gastritis can be acute gastritis that develops fast and persists for a short time or chronic gastritis that develops gradually and persists for extended time.
Common Gastritis symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting: Depending on the severity of the disease vomit may be clear, yellow or green or tinted with blood. In severe gastritis the patient may vomit blood.
- Burning sensation in the upper abdomen that either gets better or worse after taking food.
- Pain in the upper central portion of the belly.
- Feeling of fullness in upper abdomen after taking food.
- Loss of appetite.
Gastritis symptoms observed in severe gastritis
In adults especially those above 65 years of age degeneration of stomach lining occurs gradually and symptoms may not be present. These patients suddenly fall ill with severe symptoms:
- Severe sweating and increased heart rate.
- Shortness of breath.
- Sever pain in stomach.
- Vomiting of large amounts of blood.
- Large amounts of blood may also be observed in stools. Bowel movements can also be foul smelling.
Possible Complications in Gastritis
Untreated gastritis can result in stomach ulcers and even cancer in few patients. Increased thinning of cells of stomach lining increases risk for stomach cancer. However, in most of the cases gastritis does not get complicated.
Gastritis symptoms may not be observed in all patients. One should seek medical advice if gastritis persist for more than a week. Emergency medical care should be taken if blood is found in stools or if you vomit blood to know the exact cause.
Gastritis often gets improved with appropriate treatment at right time. To plan right treatment strategy it is important to know the exact cause for gastritis symptoms. Physical examination and the symptoms given by the patient often indicate gastritis. But to know the exact cause blood test, stool test and breath test are conducted to identify the presence bacteria H.pylori, stool test is done for presence of blood, endoscopy and X- ray are done to observe the condition of upper digestive system. During endoscopy if the doctor suspects anything wrong then he removes a small tissue of the stomach for further examination. H.pylori if present will be observed in the tissue.
Acute gastritis caused due to pain relievers and intake of alcohol gets cured by discontinuing them even without medications. Gastritis due to bacterial infection is often treated with antibiotics and other medications to regulate stomach acid production. To protect stomach lining from NSAIDS coating agents such as Sucralfate, Misoprostol are used to coat the stomach lining.
- Antibiotics: If H.pylori is found in the digestive tract the antibiotics such as clarithromycin, amoxicillin, tetracycline and metronidazole are given to eliminate the bacteria. Depending on the extent of infection, antibiotics may be used for a period of two weeks.
- Drugs to curb acid production: To aid in healing of stomach, production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is controlled by using proton pump inhibitors that block the action of acid producing cells. Drugs such as omeprazole, lansoprazole, or rabeprazole are given to curb acid production. Continued use of these medications increases the risk for fractures. To reduce the risk of calcium deficiency calcium supplements should be taken while using these drugs.
- Drugs to reduce acid production: In few patients reducing the extent of acid production helps to relieve gastritis symptoms. Histamine blockers such as ranitidine, famotidine, nizatidine and cimetidine are used to reduce acid production and promote faster healing of stomach lining.
- Antacids to neutralize existing acid: To neutralize the existing stomach acid and reduce stomach pain antacids are used. Three types of antacids are available magnesium containing antacids, aluminum containing antacids and calcium containing antacids. Magnesium containing antacids cause diarrhea and should not be used by patients with kidney problems. Aluminum containing antacids and calcium containing antacids cause constipation. Calcium containing antacids are being considered by many physicians as they help to supplement body calcium especially in postmenopausal woman.
- Vitamin B12 shots: Gastritis caused due to pernicious anemia is treated by giving vitamin B12 shots.
- Surgery: Gastritis due to stomach ulcers is treated through surgery if medications fail to treat the ulcers.
Home remedies to relieve gastritis symptoms
- Taking smaller meals: Indigestion due to increased acid production can be reduced by taking smaller meals frequently.
- Avoiding irritating foods: Spicy, fatty and over fried foods should be avoided to prevent further irritation of stomach. Quit smoking and alcohol intake to prevent further irritation of stomach.
- Changing pain relievers: Talk to your doctor and consider changing the pain medications to reduce stomach irritation. Gastritis symptoms due to pain relievers can also be avoided by taking them along with food or antacids.
- Reducing stress: Regular practice of activities such as yoga and meditation helps to cope up with stress.
Personal hygiene and taking hygienic food helps to prevent gastritis caused by H.pylori.
- Washing of hands with soap and clean water.
- Eating well cooked foods.
- Drinking clean and boiled water.