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Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation or swelling in the lining of the stomach. It can cause severe and nagging pain. However, the pain is temporary and usually lasts for short bursts at a time.
Acute gastritis comes on suddenly, and can be caused by injury, bacteria, viruses, stress, or ingesting irritants such as alcohol, NSAIDs, steroids, or spicy food. It is often only temporary. Chronic gastritis, on the other hand, comes on more slowly and lasts longer. Chronic gastritis might cause more of a consistent dull ache than the more intense pain of acute gastritis.
Gastritis is a separate condition from gastroenteritis. Gastritis only directly affects the stomach and may include nausea or vomiting, while gastroenteritis affects both the stomach and the intestines. Gastroenteritis symptoms may include diarrhea in addition to nausea or vomiting.
While the prevalence of chronic gastritis has decreased in developing countries in recent years, acute gastritis is still common.
Acute gastritis occurs when the lining of your stomach is damaged or weak. This allows digestive acids to irritate the stomach. There are many things that can damage your stomach lining. The causes of acute gastritis include:
NSAIDs and corticosteroids (steroid hormone medications) are the most common causes of acute gastritis.
H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can infect the stomach. It’s often the cause of peptic ulcers. While it’s unclear how H. pylori spreads, it can result in stomach inflammation, loss of appetite, nausea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Other causes that are less common include:
Factors that increase your risk of acute gastritis include:
Some people with acute gastritis do not have any symptoms. Other people may have symptoms that range from mild to severe.
Common symptoms include:
Some symptoms associated with acute gastritis are also seen in other health conditions. It can be difficult to confirm acute gastritis without talking to a doctor.
Contact your doctor if you have gastritis symptoms for a week or longer. If you vomit blood, seek medical attention immediately.
There are some conditions that can cause symptoms similar to those of acute gastritis, including:
Some tests can be used to diagnose acute gastritis. Usually, your doctor will ask you detailed questions to learn about your symptoms. They may also order tests to confirm diagnosis, such as the following:
Some cases of acute gastritis go away without treatment, and eating a bland diet can aid in a quick recovery. Foods that are low in natural acids, low in fat, and low in fiber may be tolerated best. Lean meats like chicken or turkey breast can be added to the diet if tolerated, though chicken broth or other soups might be best if vomiting keeps happening.
However, many people do need treatment for acute gastritis, with treatment and recovery times depending on the cause of the gastritis. H. pylori infections may require one or two rounds of antibiotics, which could last for two weeks apiece. Other treatments, like those used to treat viruses, will involve taking medication to reduce symptoms.
Some treatment options include:
There are both over-the-counter and prescription medicines for gastritis. Often, your doctor will recommend a combination of drugs, including the following:
Antibiotics are only necessary if you have a bacterial infection, such as from H. pylori. Common antibiotics used to treat H. pylori infections include amoxicillin, tetracycline (which shouldn’t be used in children under 12 years old), and clarithromycin. The antibiotic may be used in conjunction with a proton pump inhibitor, antacid, or H2 antagonist. Treatment typically lasts between 10 days and four weeks.
Your doctor may also recommend that you stop taking any NSAIDS or corticosteroids to see if that relieves your symptoms. However, don’t stop taking these drugs without first talking to your doctor.
Lifestyle changes may also help reduce your acute gastritis symptoms. Changes that could help include:
According to research originally published in The Original Internist, certain herbs improve digestive health. They may also help kill H. pylori. Some of the herbs used to treat acute gastritis include:
Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in using herbs to treat acute gastritis, and ask how long you should take each of them. Some herbs may interact with other medications. Your doctor should be aware of any supplements you take.
The outlook for acute gastritis depends on the underlying cause. It usually resolves quickly with treatment. H. pylori infections, for example, can often be treated with one or two rounds of antibiotics, and it may take a week or two for you to fight off viral infections.
However, sometimes treatment fails and it can turn into chronic, or long-term, gastritis. Chronic gastritis also may increase your risk of developing gastric cancer.
You can reduce your risk of developing this condition with a few simple steps:
Written by: Rose Kivi, Ana Gotter, and Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Medically reviewed on: Aug 31, 2016: Graham Rogers, MD
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