Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach. It is considered acute when the inflammation occurs suddenly and chronic when the inflammation occurs over a period of time.

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A. The most common causes are medications such as aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs including aspirin and ibuprofen-based products), alcohol, smoking, stomach infections such as the Heliobacter pylori bacteria or loss of the protective layer of the stomach lining. Less common causes are eating or drinking caustic or corrosive substances, bile reflux, autoimmune disorders (like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), excess stomach acid or viral infection.

In addition to these causes, acute gastritis can be caused by extreme physiological stress and associated with severe, acute illness or trauma, such as recent heavy alcohol use, major surgery, head trauma, or failure of the kidneys, liver or respiratory system.

A. Symptoms include abdominal pain or indigestion, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, vomiting blood or coffee-ground like material, or bowel movements that produce dark stools. Acute gastritis may also be accompanied by hiccups.

A. Tests vary depending on the specific cause.  Your physician may advise you to have an upper GI X-ray, endoscopy (a thin, flexible scope is inserted through the mouth into the stomach), biopsy or blood tests.

A. Depending on the cause, some cases of gastritis will resolve over time without treatment.  For others, antacids or other medications are needed to decrease or neutralize stomach acid, eliminate symptoms and promote healing.  You will need specialized treatment if you have a gastric ulcer.

A. Eliminating or reducing alcohol and NSAIDs will reduce the risk. Gastritis caused by stress can be prevented by eliminating or reducing stress or through medication, like a proton pump inhibitor, to decrease production of gastric acid.

A. Patients with gastritis may be at risk for developing stomach ulcers. In cases where the gastritis is caused by the heliobacter pylori bacteria there may be an increased risk of stomach cancer or lymphoma (malignancy of the lymph system).