Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Acute gastritis is a transient episode; it is rare and disappears after treatment. Chronic gastritis is an inflammation that continues but will settle after time. Chronic gastritis is mostly due to a chronic infection by a bacterium, helicobacter pylori, or to aggressive antibodies in the body. Other rarer causes like infections, medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, or biliary aggression may be involved.
Patients with chronic gastritis rarely exhibit symptoms, but they will sometimes complain of:
- heartburn (burning during or after a meal, especially in the case of "aggressive" foods);
- discomfort of the upper abdomen;
- nausea and vomiting.
The doctor will prescribe additional tests: a gastroscopy, in particular. An endoscopy - introducing an endoscopic camera (by mouth) to view the lining of the stomach - may also be performed. A sampling of gastric juice will help to highlight the chemical balance (and if there is a hyper or hyposecretion of chlorine). The sampling of cells by multiple biopsies taken at different locations of the lining will help to clarify the causes and the origin of the disease. For gastritis of an autoimmune origin, blood levels of antibodies are also important to measure.
In the case of a gastric infection by helicobacter pylori, the eradication of this bacterium is discussed and could help to prevent the occurrence of complications due to ulcers. Autoimmune gastritis warrants thorough monitoring as well as endoscopies with biopsies every 3 years, as a cancerous progression is sometimes possible. This type of gastritis being sometimes responsible for anemia - pernicious anemia due to the reduction of the absorption of vitamin B12 in the cells of the stomach, a monthly vitamin B12 injection can prevent a decline in red blood cells.