Topic Overview

What is gastritis?

Gastritis is an upset stomach. It happens when something irritates the stomach lining.

Normally, a layer of mucus protects the stomach lining. If gastritis occurs for a long time, part of this lining may wear away, causing sores called ulcers.

Gastritis may come on suddenly and last for a short time (acute). For some people, it may be a long-term (chronic) problem.

What causes gastritis?

Many things can cause gastritis, such as:

  • Medicines that can damage the stomach lining. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Excess stomach acid, which can damage the stomach lining.
  • An infection with Helicobacter pylori ( H. pylori), a type of bacteria that can cause ulcers.
  • Eating certain foods or drinking too much alcohol.
  • Stress from a severe injury, serious illness, or major surgery.
  • An autoimmune response. The body's immune system may attack and damage the stomach lining.

What are the symptoms?

Gastritis can make you feel sick to your stomach. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, discomfort, or bloating in the upper part of the belly.
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

In some people, gastritis causes only mild symptoms that may come and go.

Severe gastritis can cause serious bleeding from the digestive tract. Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.
  • Your stools are black like tar or have streaks of blood.

Call your doctor right away if you have signs of bleeding or other problems. For example, you may:

  • Have shortness of breath.
  • Be unable to keep fluids down.
  • Produce little or no urine for 8 hours or more.
  • Feel dizzy, faint, or weak.
  • Look pale.

How is it treated?

If gastritis happens only now and then, you can probably use just home treatment. This may include changes to your diet, such as limiting how much alcohol you drink. Or you may need to avoid foods and drinks that have caffeine. They increase stomach acid.

If gastritis doesn't get better or it keeps coming back, see your doctor. He or she may recommend treatment such as:

  • Taking medicines to help reduce stomach acid and ease discomfort. These include antacids and stomach acid blockers.
  • Taking medicines to help treat an infection from H. pylori bacteria.
  • Avoiding medicines that cause gastritis, such as NSAIDs.


Current as of: April 15, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine