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Gastritis is an inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach.

Acute gastritis involves sudden, severe inflammation. Chronic gastritis involves long-term inflammation that can last for years if it’s left untreated.

Erosive gastritis is a less common form of the condition. It typically doesn’t cause much inflammation, but it can lead to bleeding and ulcers in the lining of the stomach.

Gastritis doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms in everyone. The most common symptoms are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a feeling of fullness in your upper abdomen, particularly after eating
  • indigestion

If you have erosive gastritis, you might experience different symptoms, including:

  • black, tarry stool
  • vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds

The treatment for gastritis depends on the cause of the condition.

If you have gastritis caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other medications, avoiding those drugs may be enough to relieve your symptoms. If you think your prescription medication is causing gastritis, talk with your prescriber before stopping or modifying your dosage.

Doctors routinely treat gastritis as a result of H. pylori with antibiotics in order to kill the bacteria.

In addition to antibiotics, several other types of medication are used to treat gastritis:

Proton pump inhibitors

Medications called proton pump inhibitors work by blocking cells that create stomach acid. Common proton pump inhibitors include:

  • omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • esomeprazole (Nexium)

However, long-term use of these medications, especially at high doses, can lead to an increased risk of spine, hip, and wrist fractures. It can also lead to increased risk of renal failure, dementia, and nutrient deficiencies.

Speak with your doctor before beginning one of these medications to create a treatment plan that is right for you.

Acid reducing medications

Famotidine (Pepcid) is one example of a medication that reduces the amount of acid your stomach produces.

By lowering the amount of acid that’s released into your digestive tract, these medications relieve the pain of gastritis and allow your stomach lining to heal.

Shop for Pepcid online.

Antacids

Your doctor may recommend that you use antacids for rapid relief of gastritis pain. These medications can neutralize the acid in your stomach.

Some antacids may cause diarrhea or constipation, so talk with your doctor if you experience any of these side effects.

Shop for antacids online.

Probiotics

Probiotics have been shown to help replenish digestive flora and heal gastric ulcers. However, there’s no evidence that they have any impact on acid secretion.

There are currently no guidelines supporting the use of probiotics in ulcer management.

Shop for probiotic supplements online.

Weakness in your stomach lining allows digestive juices to damage and inflame it, causing gastritis. Having a thin or damaged stomach lining raises your risk for gastritis.

A gastrointestinal bacterial infection can also cause gastritis. The most common bacterial infection that causes it is H. pylori, a bacterium that infects the lining of the stomach. The infection is usually passed from person to person, but it can also be transmitted through contaminated food or water.

Certain conditions and activities may increase your risk for developing gastritis. Other risk factors include:

  • extreme alcohol consumption
  • routine use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin
  • cocaine use
  • age, because the stomach lining thins naturally with age
  • tobacco use

Other less common risk factors include:

  • stress
  • autoimmune disorders
  • digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease
  • viral infections

Your doctor will perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and ask for your family history. They may also recommend a breath, blood, or stool test to check for H. pylori. In addition, your doctor may:

  • Perform an upper GI endoscopy. This is to check for inflammation in the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Your doctor may take a small sample, or biopsy, of the lining of the stomach. A pathologist will examine this sample for anything unusual under a microscope.
  • Perform an upper GI series. This involves taking X-rays of your digestive tract after you swallow a barium solution. This will help distinguish areas of concern.
  • Send you for a blood test. This is to check for other causes for your gastritis symptoms or signs of complications.
  • Ask you for a stool sample. This may rule out an H. pylori infection or blood in your stool. Blood may indicate there’s bleeding in your stomach.
  • Ask you to do a urea breath test. This also tests for an H. pylori infection by having you swallow a urea capsule and then seeing whether you breathe out carbon dioxide atoms. This would indicate you have the infection.

If you need help finding a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

If your gastritis is left untreated, it can lead to a variety of complications. Certain forms of gastritis can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer, particularly in people with thinned stomach linings.

Complications may include:

  • anemia
  • deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, vitamin C, zinc, calcium, and magnesium
  • bleeding in the stomach
  • perforation inside the stomach
  • peptic ulcers
  • chronic atrophic gastritis, which causes the loss of cells in the gastric glands in addition to inflammation
  • gastric metaplasia and dysplasia, which are types of precancerous lesions in the stomach
  • achlorhydria, which prevents the stomach from producing the acid it needs to digest food properly
  • perforation of the stomach
  • cancers such as adenocarcinoma (gastric cancer), mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma, and neuroendocrine tumors (NET)

Because of these potential complications, it’s important to consult with your doctor if you experience any symptoms of gastritis, especially if they’re chronic.

Preventative strategies may depend on your health and whether or not you have any conditions that put you at risk for developing gastritis. But, since gastritis doesn’t always have a clear cause, it can be hard to prevent.

However, there are some things you can do:

  • Maintaining good hygiene habits. Habits like handwashing may help you reduce the risk of having a H. pylori infection.
  • Taking good care of your mental health. Self-care and de-stressing practices may reduce your risk of developing stress-induced gastritis.
  • Eating smaller meals more slowly and regularly. Also, avoiding or limiting fried, salty, sugary and spicy foods (these are things that research shows could trigger gastritis symptoms).
  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke.
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol and caffeine.

The outlook for gastritis depends on the underlying cause. Acute gastritis usually resolves quickly with treatment. H. pylori infections, for example, can often be treated with one or two rounds of antibiotics.

However, sometimes treatment fails and it can turn into chronic, or long-term, gastritis. Talk with your doctor to develop an effective treatment plan for you.