Gastritis refers to a group of conditions that involve the inflammation of the lining of the stomach. With instances of erosive gastritis, the stomach lining is not only inflamed, it has also started to wear away. This type of condition typically develops slowly; however, a patient may also be stricken with it abruptly. It can occur in otherwise healthy people.
A subcategory of erosive gastritis is called acute stress gastritis. This condition can occur suddenly, due to a serious injury or illness. Acute stress gastritis commonly occurs due to major bleeding injuries or burns that cover an extensive area of the skin. These injuries may decrease blood circulation to the stomach, which results in the stomach lining’s inability to adequately protect itself.
The main cause of this condition is a damaged or weakened stomach lining. This damage can have many different contributing causes; however, the condition is most commonly caused by drugs. Long-term use of even over-the-counter medications can damage the stomach, such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Bacterial or viral infections, as well as Crohn’s disease, can also cause gastritis.
Some of the common symptoms of erosive gastritis may be unpleasant, such as bloating, belching, and indigestion. Patients may also experience weight loss and a loss of appetite. Gastritis, especially acute stress gastritis, can also cause nausea and vomiting. Rarely, the disorder can cause stomach bleeding, which is evident in bloody vomit. Patients who experience stomach bleeding or those who have persistent symptoms for about a week generally should get medical help.
Doctors can begin to diagnose a patient with erosive gastritis after reviewing the patient’s symptoms and medical history, as well as conducting a physical exam. For a definitive diagnosis, a doctor may also run a blood test or a stool test to check for an infection. He or she may also take an x-ray of the stomach or use an endoscope. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is a simple procedure that involves the insertion of a thin tube down a patient’s throat to check for damage.
Once diagnosed with erosive gastritis, the doctor can advise a patient on which medication can best treat the condition. For mild cases, over-the-counter antacids may be adequate. In more severe cases, the doctor may prescribe an acid blocker, such as famotidine or ranitidine. Another option is a drug called a proton pump inhibitor, which helps to reduce stomach acid. If the condition is caused by a bacterial infection, the patient may also take a course of antibiotics.
In addition to medications, the patient can also incorporate a healthier lifestyle into the treatment plan. Stress can increase the production of acid in the stomach and aggravate the condition. Patients who live a reduced-stress lifestyle, maintain healthy eating habits, and engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to have a healthier digestive system.