Gastritis is the medical term for the inflammation of the stomach lining. Initially gastritis causes irritation of the stomach lining and with time it progresses into persistent inflammation that can lead to erosion, ulceration and degeneration of the entire stomach. The entire lining of the stomach may be affected or just portions of it. Gastritis can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term).
What Causes Gastritis?
The mucous membrane of the stomach produces a mucus layer which coats the inside of the stomach. This prevents gastric acid from injuring the stomach wall. In gastritis, this mucus layer is compromised and the acid causes inflammation of the lining. However, there are other causes that may result in the inflammation of the stomach that is not related to the action of the stomach acid.
Gastritis may be caused by many factors, ranging from infections (bacterial, viral, fungal or parasites) to the use of certain substances like drugs and alcohol. It may also be caused by certain types of autoimmune diseases, stomach cancer, problems with blood supply to the stomach and injury or death of some of the stomach cells. Gastritis is sometimes just a symptom of an underlying disease or at times its a condition on its own that is not associated with any other medical condition.
What are the Symptoms of Gastritis?
The most common symptom of gastritis is a gnawing stomach pain which is commonly referred to as a stomachache. The other symptoms may include nausea with or without vomiting, discomfort in the stomach (not pain), feeling of being bloated or full after eating even small meals and excessive belching. All these symptoms may be described as indigestion (dyspepsia).
While gastritis is a separate condition, it is often found in cases of stomach ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This does not mean that gastritis will lead to or always complicate into these conditions – sometimes gastritis can persist on its own for long periods of time with no other gastric conditions developing. If other conditions, like ulcers and GERD is present, the symptoms of these conditions may also be evident.
What are the Types of Gastritis
Broadly, gastritis can be classified as acute or chronic.
In acute gastritis, the symptoms can be very severe although short-lived and easily treated or there may be no symptoms (asymptomatic).
In chronic gastritis, the causes are usually more persistent and varied. Chronic gastritis develops gradually and the symptoms may continue for long periods of time. Like acute gastritis, it can at times cause no symptoms (asymptomatic) although severe symptoms may be present during acute exacerbation. Chronic gastritis may also result in complications like stomach ulcers or stomach bleeding.
There are different types of gastritis classified according to the cause or changes that occur in the stomach lining. This includes :
- Erosive gastritis
- Non-erosive gastritis
These types of gastritis (above) are usually acute in nature. However, there are a number of types of chronic gastritis (below) :
- Autoimmune chronic gastritis
- Atrophic gastritis
- Eosinophilic gastritis
- Gastritis in immunosuppression
- Granulomatous gastritis (inflammatory or non-inflammatory)
- H.pylori-associated gastritis
- Hemorrhagic gastritis or ulcero-hemorrhagic gastritis
- Hypertrophic gastritis (Menetrier’s disease)
- Ischemic gastritis
- Lymphocytic gastritis
- Postgastrectomy gastritis
- Reactive gastropathy
- Radiation gastritis
Hemorrhagic or ulcero-hemorrhagic gastritis may be a feature one or more types of gastritis (erosive gastritis, radiation gastritis) or other gastric conditions (like stomach cancer). At times, there is an overlap of the different types of gastritis.
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on June 13, 2010