UTG Medical Students’ Association
Mariama woke up with nausea, vomiting, gastric discomfort and some abdominal pain and she is so much worried that it could be a peptic ulcer. So, she decided to pay the Doctor a visit. At the hospital, she was told by the doctor that she has gastritis. For her to fully understand, the Doctor told her that she had “gastric”. Although Mariama has had about “gastric” before, she still quite doesn’t understand what it really means and what causes it. So, Doctor Decided to explain everything about “gastric” to Mariama.
What is Gastritis?
Gastritis, wrongly pronounced as “Gastric” in the Gambia is the inflammation of the upper layer of the stomach’s inner wall.
It originates from a combination of the Greek word (gaster gastros) meaning stomach and itis which means inflammation. And hence, gastritis means inflammation in the stomach.
Inflammation on the other hand is the body’s natural reaction to injury and infection. It is normal and protective but it can sometimes go bad as in gastritis.
In gastritis, the body is trying to fight off things that it believes to be bad and it ends up causing harm to the stomach wall.
It can be termed acute or chronic depending on the cause and duration of gastritis.
How common is Gastritis
Acute gastritis affects about 8 out of every 1,000 people and chronic gastritis affects about 2 out of every 10,000 people.
Types of Gastritis
There are two main types of gastritis, erosive and none erosive gastritis.
o Erosive (reactive): This gastritis causes both inflammation and erosion (wearing away) of the stomach’s upper wall. It is also known as reactive gastritis. It can be caused by alcohol, smoking, NSAIDs or Painkillers, corticosteroids, viral or bacterial infections and stress from illnesses or injuries.
o Non-erosive: Inflammation of the stomach upper wall without erosion or harming the stomach lining.
Causes of Gastritis
The causes of Gastritis are many and diverse. From microorganisms, medications, and stress to autoimmune causes and other unexplained causes.
Painkillers (NSAIDs). These drugs are easily obtainable in the market and are used to relieve pain. But while they relieve pain, they also inhibit the production of the mucus that protects the stomach wall from stomach acid. This exposes the stomach to dangerous acid that exposes it to inflammatory damage.
Alcohol: This like many other substances and food, irritates the stomach wall and can cause erosive gastritis and sometimes results in stomach bleeding.
Stress Gastritis: this gastritis arises within 18 hours in the majority of critically ill patients. The stress may range from burns, trauma, hypotension, infection, and kidney and liver disease to brain and spinal cord injury.
Helicobacter Pylori: These bacteria are involved in a lot of digestive tract problems. It can induce inflammation in the stomach which may progress to peptic ulcer and cancer.
Autoimmune gastritis: this can be caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the stomach wall and causing damage to the upper lining.
Bile Reflux: the body makes bile to help in food digestion. But sometimes this bile flows upwards to the stomach and results in gastritis.
Symptoms of gastritis
Many people with gastritis are not usually aware of it. However, if you did feel symptoms, these are the most common ones.
o Black, tarry stool.
o Nausea and vomiting.
o Feeling extra full during or after a meal.
o Loss of appetite.
o Stomach ulcers.
o Losing weight without a known cause
o Upper abdominal pain or discomfort.
o Vomiting blood.
Who is at risk of having gastritis?
o Gastritis is more common with an increase in age.
o Alcohol abusers
o Those on long-term use of NSAIDs (painkillers)
o Those infected with Helicobacter pylori.
o Those who are sick or had a recent surgery
Can you transfer gastritis to another person?
The answer is no. Gastritis is not contagious but the bacteria helicobacter pylori are contagious and can be spread from hand to mouth after touching faeces that have helicobacter pylori without washing hands properly.
The complications of gastritis
Although gastritis positively responds to medication, it can really go bad if left untreated or not detected early. The following health conditions can arise from gastritis if it is not properly handled.
o Perforation of the stomach wall
o Peptic Ulcer
o Stomach Cancer
Preventive means against gastritis
The top causes of gastritis are Helicobacter Pylori, but for most people, it’s difficult for them to know if they are infected since they do not show the symptoms. These bugs are easily transmitted. You can prevent yourself from contracting it by improving personal hygiene, including proper hand washing.
Since heartburn and indigestion are linked to gastritis, you can reduce gastritis by taking the following steps to protect against them.
o Not lying down for 2 to 3 hours after a meal.
o Cutting back on caffeine.
o Not taking NSAIDs.
o Avoid fatty, fried, spicy or acidic foods.
o Reducing alcohol consumption.
o Eating smaller meals throughout the day.
o Managing stress.
Hmmm! Mariama exclaimed, “Thank you so much doctor, that was so much clear and I now understand what gastritis is and how to protect myself from this health condition.” She said, Mariama heads back home with the right knowledge of her condition and is fully aware of the need to take her medications seriously and avoid substances that may increase her chance of developing gastritis in the future.