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What is Gastritis?
Gastritis refers to the inflammation of the linings of stomach. The inflammation takes place due to the attack of the same bacteria that causes peptic ulcers. However, other factors such as traumatic injury and continuous use of pain killers can’t be ruled out.
Gastritis can occur suddenly (known as acute gastritis) or develop over time (chronic gastritis). In many cases, gastritis leads to ulcers and sometimes, to stomach cancer. However, most aces of gastritis respond well to medicines and can be treated within a short span of time.
Symptoms of Gastritis
Gastritis may have various symptoms. The most common symptom of gastritis is a burning sensation, ache or pain, die to indigestion, in your upper abdomen. The pain may become either worse or better when you eat. Apart from pain in the abdomen, people with gastritis may also suffer from nausea and vomiting. Loss of appetite is also a common symptom of gastritis. Additionally, belching or bloating may also take place. Gastritis may also result in a feeling of fullness of the upper abdomen after eating.
Sudden weight loss is also a common symptom of gastritis. Sometimes, black and tarry stools may also be a symptom of gastritis.
Nausea, a burning discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen are common symptoms of acute gastritis, while the feeling of fullness, a dull pain and loss of appetite are common symptoms of chronic gastritis.
However, in many cases, chronic gastritis shows no symptom at all and people may not get a clue without proper tests and diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Gastritis
Diagnosis of gastritis may be done through physical checkups and inspecting the medical history. However, in some cases, help of laboratory tests are also taken. The primary examinations for diagnosis of gastritis include the following.
Blood test: A blood test for checking the red blood cell count is used to diagnose gastritis. The RBC count is usually performed to check whether the individual is suffering from anemia. The test also reveals any possible infection of Helicobacter Pylori bacteria which may lead to ulcers and, sometimes, cancer.
Endoscopy: Endoscopy is performed with an endoscope, a thin tube that contains a tiny video camera at one end. It provides a clear picture of the upper linings of the stomach and if there is any inflammation, it is easily revealed. The doctor may then perform a biopsy to check for any cancerous growth.
Stool test: A stool test may be performed to detect the presence of blood which may indicate gastritis.
Causes of Gastritis
There may be a host of factors contributing to gastritis. Some of the major causes include the following;
Bacterial infection: Infection by Helicobacter Pylori is one of the major reasons of gastritis. Bacterial infection usually leads to chronic gastritis. The bacterium may pass from person to person. In most of the cases, people affected with the bacterial infection don’t show any symptoms. However, why the bacteria attacks only a selected group of population is still unclear. Genetic reasons may also be underneath the problem. Lifestyle factors may also play a major role in acquiring the bacterium; especially smoking and high stress levels often contribute to gastritis.
Bile Reflux disease: Upset in the bile flowing system can also lead to gastritis. Usually bile is produced by the liver and is stored in the gall bladder. A valve protects the bile juice from getting into the stomach. When this function doesn’t take place properly, bile can get into stomach and result in infection and inflammation.
Alcohol: Excessive use of alcohol is also a major reason for onset of gastritis. Alcohol is found to irritate and erode the linings of stomach. This may contribute to gastritis. Alcohol is a major reason behind many cases of acute gastritis.
Pain killers: Pain killers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen may also lead to acute or chronic gastritis. It has been found that regular use of pain killers may disturb the protective lining of the stomach. This may ultimately lead to gastritis.
Stress and other associated diseases: Stress due to various reasons, such as overwork, surgery, burns and infections may lead to gastritis. Other diseases, including HIV/AIDS, liver or kidney failure, crohn’s disease etc may also contribute to gastritis.
Types of Gastritis
Gastritis may be broadly divided into four categories, which are as follows;
Duodenitis: It refers to an inflammation of the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine that connects the stomach to other parts of the digestive system. It is believed that some drugs trigger duodenitis.
Acute stress gastritis: Acute stress is a type of gastritis that occurs due to excessive stress from various reasons, such as overwork, injury, surgery and side effects of some drugs.
Chronic erosive gastritis: This type of gastritis usually takes longer time than acute gastritis to show the symptoms. Inflamed lesions are observed on the stomach lining in this type of gastritis. Usually, the ulcers take time to develop in chronic erosive gastritis.
Chronic non-erosive gastritis: In this type of gastritis, the major reason is a bacterium known as Helicobacter Pylori. Usually, lesions are not observed in this type of gastritis.
Treatment of Gastritis
Various approaches may be taken to treat gastritis, especially by treating the stomach acid and eradicating H. Pylori bacteria. It has been observed that the gastritis due to excessive alcohol use and non steroidal medications gets alright as soon as the use of these substances is stopped.
Treatment of gastritis by controlling stomach acid incorporates use of various medications. For milder forms of gastritis, over the counter (OTC) antacids may be a good option. Some examples of OTC antacids include Maalox, Mylanta etc. These antacids neutralize the excess acid in the stomach and provide instant relief from pain.
In some cases, to decrease the effect of the excess acids, some medications known as acid blockers may also be used. The common examples of acid blockers include cimetidine, nizatidine, ranitidine or famotidine etc. These medications decrease the amount of acid production and provide relief when antacids fail to do so.
If the acid blockers also fail to provide relief the only option left to control the acids in the stomach is to use proton pump inhibitors. These medications stop the tiny pumps in the acid producing cells and hence the production of acid automatically goes down. Some of the common examples of proton pump inhibitors include omeprazole (Prilosec), rabeprazole (Aciphex), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium).
If the cause behind the problem of gastritis is the H pylori bacteria, then some combinations of medicines may be used. The most common combination is of antibiotics and proton pump inhibitor. While the antibiotic is used to kill bacteria, the proton pump inhibitor provides relief from pain, inflammation and other troubles due to excess acid in the stomach.
Living with Gastritis
The individuals suffering from gastritis should, first of all, practice and healthy eating habit. Along with it maintaining a regular exercise schedule is also helpful. It not only provides the natural metabolism a boost, exercise can also keep the stress away, which is also necessary for controlling gastritis. The individuals suffering from gastritis should also keep the weight normal. A sudden loss or gain of weight is considered negative for gastritis.
Prevention of Gastritis
Although it is nearly impossible to prevent gastritis due to H. Pylori attack, the signs and symptoms of gastritis can be minimized following some important healthy steps. The first step is to avoid smoking ns alcohol. Smoking interferes with the natural metabolism of the stomach and hampers the lining. Alcohol can also erode the linings of the stomach. If possible, the NSAID pain relievers should also be avoided. Instead, acetaminophen pain relievers should be used. It is also important to keep a healthy dietary habit. The foods which irritate the stomach should be avoided, especially the junk and spicy foods. Another important step for reducing gastritis is to follow the doctor’s recommendations carefully. Taking these steps one can stay away from gastritis for a considerable period of time.