Gastritis Causes and Medication Options

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Gastritis is inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining. Gastritis can cause nausea, indigestion, abdominal pain and even vomiting. However, you can also have gastritis without having any noticeable symptoms. Acute gastritis begins suddenly and usually resolves in less than a week. Chronic gastritis is persistent, it can last for months or years. Gastritis medication options depend on the cause of gastritis and possibly co-occurring conditions, such as acid reflux.

Gastritis Causes

Many of the same things can cause both acute and chronic gastritis including:

  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are all NSAIDs. These medications are generally safe but can cause stomach irritation, especially when used at high doses or over a long period of time.

  • Alcohol. Alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer, mixed drinks and spirits, irritate the lining of the stomach. Heavy or long-term alcohol use can cause alcoholic gastritis, a chronic form of the disease.

  • Cocaine use. This can damage the lining of the digestive system, including the inside of the stomach.

  • Stress. Stressful experiences, including trauma and severe physical injury, can cause gastritis. If the stressful situation is short-lived, the gastritis symptoms may also resolve quickly. Long-term exposure to stress is more likely to cause chronic gastritis.

  • H. pylori infection. Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that causes gastritis and stomach ulcers. H. pylori infection is very common; according to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 20 to 50% of Americans are infected. Many don’t show any symptoms; however, they may develop gastritis later in life.

Other, less common causes of gastritis include autoimmune disorders (including pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s disease), bile reflux, viral infections (such as cytomegalovirus), food allergies, and Crohn’s disease.

Gastritis Medication

Some cases of gastritis go away in a short period of time without medical intervention. Gastritis that lingers is usually treated with medication. Some of these medications are also prescribed for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Commonly used gastritis medications include:

  • Antacids. Over-the-counter antacids, including Rolaids, Maalox, Mylanta and Tums, neutralize stomach acid and may provide relief from gastritis symptoms.

  • H2 blockers. Cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac) are all H2 blockers. These medications decrease the production of stomach acid. They are available over the counter, with stronger doses available by prescription.

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium) also decrease stomach acid. Generally, PPIs are more effective than H2 blockers. Some PPIs (including omeprazole and lansoprazole) are available over the counter; others are by prescription only.

  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill H. pylori bacteria. So, if your gastritis is caused by H. pylori, treatment with antibiotics may result in a gastritis cure. Often, physicians will use a combination of antibiotics plus an acid blocker to effectively manage and treat gastritis.

Without treatment, some types of gastritis can cause ulcers; gastritis can also lead to stomach cancer. If you or a loved one has symptoms of gastritis lasting longer than a week, consult a healthcare provider. Getting a diagnosis helps target the primary problem with the right medication.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 1
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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