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Definition and causes

Gastritis is a condition of irritation and/or inflammation of the stomach (and possibly also the duodenum). Increased acid production is usually the reason, which can be triggered by many factors. For example it is often due to a combination of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, stress and medicines containing aspirin or similar drugs ("NSAIDs") such as Kodimagnyl, Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Ipren. Drugs containing corticosteroids (steroids) can also cause gastritis.

Acute gastritis can arise from infection with the so-called peptic ulcer bacteria (Helicobacter Pylori). Other bacteria and viruses can cause acute gastritis as well.

Symptoms of gastritis

  • Bleeding which may appear in several ways. You may have vomiting containing blood. When blood gets in contact with acid it turns black and may look like coffee-grounds. If larger bleeding has occurred, you may have black and very smelly stools because of digested blood.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain located to the upper part of the abdomen
  • Diffuse discomfort from the upper part of the abdomen.

Precautions and diagnosis

When signs of bleeding from the digestive tract occur, you should always seek medical attention. If you suspect that the condition is caused by high alcohol, tobacco and coffee consumption, you must stop this intake at least until you are properly examined.

Diagnosis is made by an endoscopic examination of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (gastroscopy) during which tissue sampling will take place.

Treatment of gastritis

Treatment is cessation of alcohol, aspirin or NSAIDs if it is the main reason. Hereafter the mucosal lining of the stomach normalizes and symptoms disappear within a few days. Otherwise the treatment consists of agents that reduce the acid output in the stomach (proton pump inhibitors).

If the condition is caused by H. pylori, a combination of antibiotics together with a proton pump inhibitor is necessary.

Complications of gastritis

The most serious complication is vicious bleeding, which in rare cases can be life threatening. Minor bleeding over a long period of time can cause anemia. In prolonged cases of chronic gastritis, the mucosa can be damaged to a state where peptic ulcers or vitamin B-12 deficiency may occur.