Gastritis, at its most basic, is a stomachache. Specifically, gastritis means the stomach's lining is inflamed. Gas and diarrhea may accompany gastritis, depending on the cause.
Most people have experienced gastritis at one point or another in their lives. The causes can be bacterial, viral, fungal, from anti-inflammatory medications, autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, or even caused by cigarette smoke.
Many people experiencing gastritis self-medicate first, and if the cause is transitory, antacids and the like may be effective. However, for chronic gastritis, a person needs to see a physician.
The doctor will usually take a complete medical history first, and prescribe a proton pump inhibitor medication, to see if less acid in the stomach will take care of the problem. The physician will probably also prescribe a bland diet low in fat and acid. If the gastritis symptoms do not resolve, the doctor will often order an upper GI panel to determine if the patient has an ulcer causing the gastritis, and will treat the patient accordingly.
If the patient does not have an ulcer, the doctor may then test for the presence of H. pylori and other Helicobacter species. If these bacteria are present, the doctor will then prescribe antibiotics and keep the patient on the proton pump inhibitor, until the symptoms have resolved, and the patient no longer tests positive for H. pylori.
Chronic gastritis should be taken as a symptom of an underlying cause. The chronic presence of H. pylori is known to contribute to stomach cancer, and a peptic ulcer left untreated can also turn malignant.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms, and promote healing of the stomach lining, especially from H. pylori. Most people are able to achieve relief with an initial proton pump inhibitor medication, and thereafter with over the counter antacids such as Maalox® or Mylanta®.
Gastritis is rarely fatal, but can mask other diseases such as acute coronary syndrome or aortic aneurysm rupture. Because of this, a person should always see a doctor when gastritis symptoms do not abate.