Gastritis is inflammation (irritation) of the lining of the stomach because of a stomach infection. The bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (also called H. pylori) causes this infection. It’s the most common cause of gastritis worldwide.
How people get this infection is unclear. Possible sources of bacteria may be contaminated water or utensils. H. pylori can grow in the stomach lining covered by a layer of mucus that protects it from stomach acid.
The main symptom is chronic stomach upset. Pain in the upper abdomen (belly) and cramps may be present and are often made worse by eating. Many people will have less appetite. Bad breath (halitosis) may also be present. A burning acid taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, and bleeding may occur.
Many people may have no symptoms, and the infection is found when a stomach biopsy is done during upper endoscopy.
The health care provider may suspect H. pylori gastritis from a history of stomach upset, pain, and cramps. Sometimes, upper endoscopy (looking at the stomach through a lighted, flexible tube) is done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes. A stomach biopsy (removing a small piece of tissue) may be done to test for bacteria in the stomach and to exclude other stomach diseases.
A breath test (testing with a substance called urea) or stool test may also be used for diagnosis. Blood tests can also measure antibodies to H. pylori, but these won’t tell whether the infection is new or old because antibodies to the bacteria can last for several years after treatment.
Three or four drugs may be taken for several days. These usually include the following types of medicines: (1) antibiotics (e.g., clarithromycin, amoxicillin, tetracycline, metronidazole, or some combination); (2) acid-suppressing drugs (e.g., omeprazole, lansoprazole, and pantoprazole); and (3) bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol™). Complications, such as stomach ulcers, bleeding, and increased risk of stomach cancer, can occur in people with longlasting infection left untreated.
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