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It’s normal to get a stomach ache every once in a while, but if you experience chronic abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and bloating, you may have a condition known as gastritis. Symptoms of gastritis can be acute or chronic, and they can significantly disrupt your ability to carry out daily activities. 
Gastritis is a common but often treatable disease. It isn’t contagious, but you may still want to get treatment early to prevent health complications. Anyone can develop gastritis, but it is more common in older adults who have thinner stomach linings. 
If you are diagnosed with gastritis, you may be prescribed proton pump inhibitors like Nexium (esomeprazole) or Protonix (pantoprazole) to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach. Treatment options will be discussed in further detail later on. Continue reading to learn more about the symptoms, causes, and different types of gastritis.
Understanding the Function of the Stomach
To understand gastritis, we must first discuss the importance of the stomach and how it functions. The stomach is a muscular, J-shaped organ that extends from the mouth to the anus. It is flexible, so it varies in size before and after a meal. The stomach also varies in size from person to person.
The stomach is connected to the esophagus by the gastroesophageal (GE) junction. The stomach is also connected to the small intestine by the duodenum. Surrounding the stomach are many lymph nodes. Inside the stomach, several layers of tissue serve multiple purposes like food storage, breakdown, and digestion. These layers of tissue include:
- The mucosa (mucous membrane and inner lining)
- The submucosa (the connective tissue that contains lymph vessels, nerve cells, and fibers)
- The muscularis propria (main muscle stomach)
- The serosa (outside layer of fibrous membrane) 
What is Gastritis?
Now that we understand the function and structure of the stomach, what is gastritis? Gastritis is a stomach condition that occurs when the mucosa becomes damaged or weakened. As mentioned, the mucosa is the inner lining of the stomach. This part of the stomach is responsible for protecting your stomach from the acidic by-product of digestion. When the mucosa is damaged, symptoms may occur. 
Remember when we said gastritis isn’t contagious? While this is technically true, the bacterium that causes gastritis is. If you have gastritis, you may want to practice proper handwashing before handling food and after trips to the restroom. This can help to prevent spreading gastritis bacteria to others. 
Symptoms of Gastritis
We’ve already discussed some gastritis symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and bloating, but gastritis can also cause the following symptoms:
- Black stool
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach ulcers
- Unexplained weight loss
- Vomiting blood 
Some of these symptoms may be confused for other health conditions, so it is important to see your doctor to make sure. Usually, blood in your stool or vomit is a sign that the stomach lining is bleeding. If you suspect this, see your healthcare provider right away. 
Types of Gastritis
Two main types of gastritis may affect your stomach lining. These include erosive gastritis and non-erosive gastritis. When you have erosive gastritis, inflammation is present and the mucosa may wear away. With non-erosive gastritis, only inflammation occurs, and the stomach lining is not compromised. 
Common Gastritis Causes
Erosive and non-erosive gastritis may be caused by different factors. For example, erosive gastritis is typically caused by alcohol, smoking, corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), infections, or stress from illnesses. 
Gastritis is commonly caused by lifestyle and diet habits. In addition to drinking too much alcohol and smoking, eating spicy foods, stress, and long-term use of aspirin can cause gastritis. 
Health issues are another leading cause of gastritis. Health issues that commonly lead to gastritis include bacterial or viral infections, major surgery, and traumatic injury. If you have an autoimmune disorder, chronic bile reflux, or pernicious anemia, you may be at risk for gastritis. 
If you are showing symptoms of gastritis, you may be wondering how gastritis is diagnosed. At your doctor’s visit, you will be examined using one of the following methods.
- Upper GI series test. This test, also called a barium swallow, involves using an X-ray to check the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. In order to see the upper GI tract, you will be asked to swallow a metallic fluid known as barium, which coats the organs so they show up on the X-ray.
- Upper endoscopy (EGD). An EGD examines the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope. The endoscope has a camera on one end. It enters through your mouth, travels into your upper GI tract, and shows your doctor a visual of the inside of your organs. During an EGD, a small tissue sample (biopsy) can be taken.
- Blood tests and stool samples. Because the bacteria H. pylori is a common cause of gastritis, your doctor will most likely ask you to take a blood test to rule out this cause. A blood test may also be used to check for anemia, which occurs when there are not enough red blood cells in the body. Similarly, a stool sample may be used to check for bacteria or stomach bleeding.
- Breath test. Depending on your condition, your doctor may order a breath test. This test may be ordered in addition to a blood test or in place of a blood test to analyze the stomach for bacteria. 
If you are diagnosed with gastritis, your doctor will discuss your treatment options. Your treatment will take into consideration your symptoms, age, and overall health. If your condition is severe, more drastic measures may be necessary.
In cases where your gastritis is caused by the H. pylori bacteria, you may be prescribed a type of antibiotic called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to reduce stomach acid and help kill the bacteria. In addition to a proton pump inhibitor for gastritis, you may be given medicine to relieve symptoms like diarrhea. Sometimes, you may be prescribed more than one PPI, so ask your doctor about proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec (omeprazole) and whether they are suitable for your condition. 
If you have an underlying health condition causing your gastritis, your doctor may form a treatment plan to address the underlying condition. With successful recovery or management of an underlying cause, your gastritis symptoms may resolve on their own. 
When you are on a treatment plan for gastritis, your doctor may ask you to stop taking other medicines that may interact with your prescribed PPI. Aspirin, over-the-counter pain medicines, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are known to cause complications when combined with gastritis medication. Get in touch with your healthcare provider today to discuss important stomach health guidelines, how to keep your bowels healthy, and how to prevent gastritis. 
The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.