Overview of Gastritis

Gastritis is a disorder characterized by irritation or inflammation of the stomach lining (mucosa). The condition often causes abdominal pain and tenderness, nausea, and vomiting.

Types of Gastritis

Gastritis is not a single disease, and there are a number of different types. The disorder can be classified according to whether inflammation develops suddenly (acute gastritis) or whether it develops slowly over time, is long lasting, or comes and goes (chronic gastritis).

Gastritis also can be classified according to the cause (e.g., bacteria, virus, parasite, fungus) or the location of the stomach lining affected (e.g., upper part [cardia], middle part [body], lower part [pylorus]).

Acute gastritis, also sometimes called stress gastritis, often occurs as a result of the following:

  • Alcohol use
  • Certain medications (e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs])
  • Consuming a corrosive substance (e.g., poison)
  • Extreme stress
  • Infection
  • Injury (e.g., during surgery)

Patients who have liver, kidney, or respiratory failure are at increased risk for developing acute gastritis.

If left untreated, acute gastritis caused by stress, alcohol use, or medications can develop into chronic gastritis (also called erosive gastritis). Chronic gastritis is characterized by inflammation and the wearing away of the stomach lining. Acute gastritis is more common than chronic gastritis.

There are three forms of chronic gastritis. Type A develops primarily in the body of the stomach and is often related to an autoimmune system disorder, such as pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency). Type B chronic gastritis, which is the most common, develops primarily in the lower part of the stomach (called the pylorus). It usually is related to Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Type AB gastritis is a combination of these two forms and develops both in the body of the stomach and the pylorus. This type also may be related to H. pylori infection.

Gastritis Incidence and Prevalence

Gastritis is a common medical problem. The condition is diagnosed in as many as 10% of patients seeking emergency medical care for abdominal pain.

In the United States, some ethnic groups are at increased risk for certain types of gastritis. For example, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans have higher rates of gastritis due to H. pylori infection, and autoimmune gastritis is more common in African Americans and people of Northern European descent.

Due to an increased risk for H. pylori infection and thinning of stomach lining, which are associated with aging, gastritis is more common in adults over the age of 60.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 29 Feb 2008

Last Modified: 29 Aug 2011