Gastritis, or the inflammation of the stomach lining, is a condition that can be acute (occurs suddenly and lasts for a short time) or chronic (develops slowly and is long lasting). This condition occurs when the protective layer of mucus in the stomach breaks down, and gastritis can be erosive (the stomach lining wears away, causing ulcers) or non-erosive (inflammation without erosion).
The condition is generally caused by an H. pylori bacterial infection, overuse of pain relievers, or drinking too much alcohol. Other conditions, like extreme stress and vitamin B-12 deficiencies, can also trigger gastritis.
Symptoms of Gastritis
Symptoms of gastritis can be very similar to other digestive maladies like peptic ulcers and gallstones, which include:
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Upset stomach
- Upper abdominal pain
- Black tarry stools
Gastritis may not always show symptoms. In these cases, the gastritis is typically acute and may resolve on its own without treatment, leaving the patient unaware that they had the condition.
However, if severe enough and left untreated, gastritis can lead to complications like stomach ulcers and bleeding. Patients should see a doctor for testing and diagnosis if their symptoms last for a week or longer.
Making A Diagnosis
Since the symptoms of gastritis can mimic other digestive problems, it is essential that you understand your patient’s lifestyle and medical history. This can help you understand their symptoms and help you make a diagnosis.
The following examinations and tests can be performed to diagnose gastritis in patients:
- Upper GI endoscopy to visually determine if there is inflammation of the stomach lining
- Blood tests to test for pylori
- Stool tests to test for blood in the stool
- Breath tests to test for the presence of pylori. Patients drink a clear mixture that contains radioactive carbon and breathe into a bag. If the bacteria are present, the breath sample will contain the carbon.
Gastritis Treatment Options
If gastritis is diagnosed, treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. For example, simple lifestyle changes like eliminating irritating and spicy foods and taking antacids can often treat minor cases.
To treat gastritis caused by H. pylori, antibiotics can be prescribed. Emphasize to patients the importance of taking the full regimen of antibiotics, even if they feel better. Completing the course helps ensure that the infection is entirely eliminated. Stopping early can cause the problem to persist.
If the gastritis is caused by pernicious anemia, a vitamin B-12 deficiency, the patient can be treated with vitamin shots
In all cases, prescribing medications to reduce stomach acid can promote healing and help relieve pain. Antacids can cause constipation in patients, so it is important that they practice good diet and bathroom habits in order to prevent hemorrhoids.