WHAT IS GASTRITIS?
The results of your endoscopy show that you have gastritis. Gastritis is inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining. Gastritis does not mean there is an ulcer or cancer.
WHAT CAUSES GASTRITIS?
There are many possible causes of gastritis, including:
• Helicobacter Pylori, the most common cause of gastritis, is a type of bacteria which live in the stomach and produce toxins that cause the stomach lining to be inflamed. Endoscopy with a biopsy can determine if H. Pylori is the cause of your gastritis. If so, antibiotics will likely be prescribed to cure the gastritis.
• Regular use of nonsterodial anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, Advil, or Motrin. NSAIDS can reduce prostaglandin, the protective substance in the stomach, and cause gastritis.
• Drinking too much alcohol – Social or occasional use is not damaging to the stomach. However, keep in mind that alcohol does stimulate the stomach to make acid which can be the cause of gastritis.
• Pernicious Anemia – A chronic vitamin B12 deficiency, the stomach lining is attacked by the immune system leading to a loss of stomach cells. The condition is more commonly seen in patients who have a history with autoimmune disease such as lupus, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes.
• Having had an operation that changed the structure of your stomach or having a device such as a feeding tube.
• Receiving radiation (x-ray) treatments for abdominal cancer.
• Smoking cigarettes.
• Having been severely burned or injured.
These are the most common causes of gastritis, although there are other, less common causes. Because your doctor knows the most about your personal health history, he/she will be best to determine the cause of your gastritis.
SYMPTOMS OF GASTRITIS
The symptoms of gastritis depend on how acute and how long it has been present. In the acute phase, there may be pain or gnawing in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. In the chronic phase, the pain may be dull and there may be a feeling of fullness after a small amount of food. Very often, there are no symptoms at all.
HOW IS GASTRITIS DIAGNOSED?
Your physician or nurse practitioner may suspect gastritis by listening to the patient’s history. The only certain way to diagnose gastritis is by endoscopy and taking biopsies of the stomach lining. The biopsies will be sent to a pathology lab where they will be tested for the presence of H. Pylori. The results will be given to you in a follow up visit in the office.
HOW IS GASTRITIS TREATED?
The treatment depends on your cause. For most types of gastritis, reduction in stomach acid is key. Your doctor may recommend medications, such as the following:
• Antacids – These drugs work by making stomach acid less acidic.
• H2 Blockers – These drugs block the action of histamine, a chemical that causes the stomach to produce acid.
• Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) – These drugs disable the cells that pump acid into your stomach.
• Stomach Lining Protectors – These drugs soothe and coat the stomach lining and/or neutralize acid.
Examples of these medications include Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, or Protonix.
• If H. Pylori is found to be present in your stomach lining, anti-biotic therapy is usually prescribed with good results. Prevpac or Helidac Pack are some antibiotics which may be prescribed to eradicate the bacteria.
• Gastritis can also be managed by making certain lifestyle changes or changing certain health habits that can prevent or reduce the amount of acid that is produced by your stomach.
• If you regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, ask your doctor about switching to NSAIDS that causes less stomach irritation. If you need to use a non-prescription pain reliever, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) may be a good choice for you as it does not cause stomach irritation.
• If you smoke, quit. This will help your stomach lining heal (and your health will benefit in many other ways too!). It may be very hard to quit smoking but there are many products on the market that can help. Talk to your doctor to see if any of these could be helpful to you.
• Avoid alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more that 1-2 drinks per day. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor.
If you have further questions or concerns about your diagnosis or treatment, please make sure to address these with your physician or health care practitioner.