You might have taken one of those most common over-the-counter drugs, paracetamol for a quick relief from a headache on empty stomach. The headache will wither off but you may get a stomach upset soon which may or may not be accompanied by nausea, heartburning, vomiting and a feeling of fullness. The reason could be gastritis.
Definition of gastritis
The digestive process in the stomach takes place at a very low acidic pH (<4) in the presence of digestive enzymes and acidic juices such as pepsin, trypsin, amylase etc. This highly corrosive environment can damage the internal walls of the stomach and so it has a protective mucosal lining which prevents the stomach walls from getting exposed to the reacting environment.
Gastritis is a condition in which the stomach lining gets inflamed or swollen. Inflamed stomach lining produces less mucosa and therefore, the thickness of the mucus-lined barrier reduces. This makes the walls exposed to the gastric juices. Gastritis in itself is not a serious disease and can be easily treated, but the incidence of other diseases and prolonged acid damage to the stomach creates more critical health issues.
Gastritis may occur in two ways:
- Occurring suddenly and lasting for a short time, known as acute gastritis.
- Occurring slowly over a period of time and lasts longer, known as chronic gastritis.
Acute gastritis may disappear on its own or can be easily treated but chronic gastritis if left untreated can last even a lifetime and invite other disorders and sometimes, stomach cancer
Gastritis and stomach ulcer
Though both the terms are sometimes used mutually, they are different. Gastritis is one of the causes of stomach ulcer or peptic ulcer and does not cause it all the time. Gastritis can have the following two effects on the stomach:
- Can cause the mucosal lining to erode away due to acid exposure, creating erosion and fissures on the stomach lining known as ulcers. This is erosive gastritis.
- Can cause only inflammation of the lining and not erosion. This is known as non-erosive gastritis and does not create ulcers.
So getting gastritis does not necessarily mean that you will have ulcers and having a stomach ulcer may have various other underlying reasons.