A Guide to Gastropathy
Read on to learn about the types, symptoms, and treatments for gastropathy.
There are several types of gastropathy that experts classify by their causes. We explain three general gastropathy types below.
Reactive gastropathy occurs as a result of long-term stomach exposure to irritating substances. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), these substances commonly include NSAIDs, alcohol, and bile.
Reactive gastropathy can be chronic and erosive, which means it may cause lesions or ulcers in the stomach or small intestine.
Acute erosive gastropathy
Acute erosive gastropathy is similar to reactive gastropathy in that irritating substances may also contribute to its development. However, acute erosive gastropathy may also develop due to serious underlying health conditions. These conditions can include sepsis, critical illnesses, or severe injuries or burns.
Portal hypertensive gastropathy
Portal hypertensive gastropathy develops when elevated blood pressure in the portal vein, the major vein leading to the liver, causes damage to the stomach lining. While researchers do not yet fully understand the processes behind this condition’s development, increased blood and pulse pressure and liver disease may be contributing factors.
Many people with gastropathy may not experience any symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:
- abdominal pain or discomfort
- a premature feeling of fullness during a meal
- nausea or vomiting
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
Because gastropathy can lead to ulcers and intestinal bleeding, some people may also experience:
- black or tarry stool
- stool containing maroon blood
- abdominal cramps
- shortness of breath
- vomit containing blood
- vomit resembling coffee grounds
To diagnose gastropathy, your doctor may perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms and medical history. To confirm a diagnosis, they typically perform an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy.
An upper GI endoscopy involves passing a flexible tube containing a camera into your upper GI tract. This tract includes your esophagus, stomach, and the upper part of your small intestine.
Other tests that doctors may order to confirm a gastropathy diagnosis include:
- blood tests
- stool tests
- upper GI series, which involves swallowing a chalky liquid to make it easier to see problems in your GI tract with an X-ray
Treatments for gastropathy depend on the underlying cause. If NSAID or alcohol use is causing your gastropathy, you may need to reduce or stop your consumption of those substances. For reactive gastropathy, doctors may recommend PPIs to allow the stomach to heal.
Other acid-reducing medications, like H2 blockers or sucralfate, can help treat gastropathy.
The NIDDK notes that doctors may also prescribe a medication called ursodiol to help heal the lining of the stomach if bile reflux is occurring. Bile reflux is a backup of bile from the small intestine to the stomach.
If acute bleeding occurs in people with portal hypertensive gastropathy, peptide drugs and PPIs or vasoactive drugs can be beneficial.
In severe cases, treatment through endoscopy or surgery may be necessary to relieve symptoms.
People with gastropathy may have either acute or chronic symptoms. Prompt treatment of the underlying cause is essential to providing relief and may be sufficient unless doctors suspect internal bleeding.
One of the main complications of gastropathy is the development of peptic ulcers, particularly in people who use NSAIDs for long periods.
Also, portal hypertensive gastropathy may lead to acute or chronic bleeding in the GI tract.
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing gastropathy, including:
- long-term consumption of NSAIDs or alcohol
- conditions that cause bile reflux
- conditions that impair blood flow to the stomach, including sepsis or severe injuries
You may be able to prevent gastropathy by avoiding the long-term use of NSAIDs, alcohol, or other irritating substances. Prompt treatment for underlying conditions that cause bile reflux or reduce blood flow to the stomach may also help prevent the condition.
Here are a few other common questions about gastropathy. Dr. Joe Soliman has reviewed the answers.
Is gastropathy serious?
Without treatment, gastropathy can cause serious complications. For example, people with gastropathy are more likely to develop peptic ulcers, which can cause severe bleeding in the stomach and small intestine.
Contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing symptoms of internal bleeding.
What does gastropathy feel like?
Gastropathy refers to damage to the stomach lining. This damage may result from long-term exposure to irritating substances, severe conditions like sepsis, or portal hypertension.
While some people may not have any symptoms, others may experience abdominal pain, weight loss, or symptoms consistent with bleeding in the GI tract.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Doctors may prescribe acid-reducing medications, peptide drugs, or vasoactive medications. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Contact your doctor if you experience symptoms consistent with gastropathy.