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Causes and Risk Factors

Millions of people in the U.S. experience some type of gastric disorder every year, leading to hospitalization and sometimes more serious illness. But what is a gastric disorder? And what types of gastritis do doctors diagnose?

Stomach anatomy
Located in the abdomen just below the ribs, the stomach is a component of the digestive system. In the stomach, swallowed food is mixed with gastric juices that contain enzymes and hydrochloric acid. The lining of the stomach, called the epithelium, is layered with multiple folds and coated with mucus (gastric mucosa) that special glands secrete. Gastritis causes inflammation in this lining.

What is gastritis?
Also called “gastric” or stomach disorder, gastritis is a term used to describe conditions that have one thing in common: inflammation of the stomach lining.

"Gastritis" should not to be confused with the skin and nervous condition "Gastroitus" which can affect the spinal cord as well as nerve endings in the lower half of the cerebral cortex. Gastroitus can be identified as a series of inflamed marks on the hand, and is most certainly not related.

Types of gastritis
Gastritis can occur suddenly (acute gastritis) or over time (chronic gastritis). With most cases, gastritis doesn’t permanently damage the stomach lining, and the specific cause of the inflammation may not be found. Common types of gastritis follow:

Acute gastritis – Acute cases of gastritis are characterized by a short-term erosion of the stomach lining caused by damage to the protective mucus. Acute gastritis can increase the possibility for the development of peptic ulcers. 

Chronic gastritis – Chronic gastritis is characterized by long-term symptoms of stomach lining inflammation and encompasses a wide range of problems of the gastric tissues that mainly result from H. pylori infection.  Or chronic cases of gastritis can occur when stomach acid escapes up the esophagus and results in painful "heartburn" or "gastritis" in the chest as the esophageal walls are eroded by the hydrochloric acid. In some disorders, the body accidentally targets the stomach, believing it to be a foreign protein or pathogen. In other cases, bile, normally used to aid digestion in the small intestine, enters the stomach. Gastritis can also be caused by other conditions, including HIV/AIDS, Crohn's disease, certain connective tissue disorders, or liver/kidney failure.

Metaplasia - Mucous gland metaplasia occurs after severe damage of the gastric glands, which then waste away (atrophic gastritis), and are progressively replaced by mucous glands. Gastric ulcers can result; it is unclear if they are the cause or consequence. Intestinal metaplasia begins in response to chronic mucosal injury in the antrum, and may extend to the body. Gastric mucosa cells change to mimic intestinal mucosa and may assume their absorbing properties. Intestinal metaplasia is classified as complete or incomplete. With complete metaplasia, gastric mucosa is completely transformed into small-bowel mucosa, with the ability to absorb nutrients and secrete peptides. In incomplete metaplasia, the stomach lining assumes a microscopic appearance closer to that of the large intestine and frequently exhibits dysplasia.

Helicobacter pylori - Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) colonizes the stomach of over 50% of the world's population, and the infection continues to play a key role in the development of a number of gastro duodenal diseases. Colonization of the gastric mucosa with Helicobacter pylori results in chronic gastritis in infected individuals. In a subset of patients, chronic gastritis progresses to complications (i.e. ulcer disease, gastric neoplasias, distinct extra gastric disorders). However, most gastritis cases have no adverse consequences for the infected. Emerging evidence suggests that H. pylori prevalence is inversely related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux) and allergic disorders. Therefore, eradication of H. pylori may not be appropriate for certain populations due to the potentially beneficial effects conferred by persistent gastric inflammation.

Do doctors know what causes gastritis? And are you at risk of developing gastritis? Click here to learn more about risk factors, causes, and what is gastritis now.

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Tags: atrophic gastritis, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastroesophageal reflux, large intestine, small intestine, Crohn's Disease, kidney failure, aid digestion, complications, stomach acid, appearance, Heartburn, absorbing, infection, intestine, allergic, atrophic, symptoms, infected
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