Loss of protective mucus causes stomach lining inflammation
The lining of the stomach, called the mucosa, is protected by a thick layer of mucus that protects it from acidic digestive juices. If the stomach lining becomes inflamed or swollen, however, it produces less mucus and therefore provides less protection from the stomach juices. The condition known as gastritis is a result of the acidic juices eating away at the stomach lining, causing inflammation.
Certain factors may contribute to gastritis, such as:
- Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for long periods of time
- Being infected with Helicobacter pylori, a stomach bacteria
- Using alcohol excessively
- Using cocaine
- Being under stress
Many people do not notice any symptoms of gastritis, and the condition may be acute (comes on suddenly) or chronic (develops slowly over time). For those who do have symptoms, these may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Black, tarry stools (bowel movements)
If left unchecked, gastritis can lead to other conditions such as peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.
If you have symptoms that are concerning you, please be sure to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will review your health history and lifestyle behaviors, and may recommend an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series (X-ray examination of upper GI tract), as well as certain tests, such as a blood test, stool test, or a urea breath test. Treatments for gastritis may include a combination of diet and lifestyle changes along with medications designed to minimize acid in the stomach and to treat infection, if needed.