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Can gastritis turn into something else?

Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. There are several causes of gastritis, including long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, excessive alcohol use, stress, and autoimmune disorders. In most cases, gastritis does not turn into anything more serious. However, if left untreated, gastritis can sometimes lead to complications such as stomach ulcers, chronic atrophic gastritis, and stomach cancer.

What is gastritis?

Gastritis refers to inflammation of the stomach lining. When the stomach lining becomes inflamed, it can cause discomfort, indigestion, and stomach pain. There are two main types of gastritis:

  • Acute gastritis occurs suddenly and causes short-term inflammation. It’s often caused by excessive alcohol, NSAIDs, stress, or an infection.
  • Chronic gastritis involves long-term inflammation that happens gradually over time. Common causes are H. pylori infection, autoimmune disorders, or long-term NSAID use.

Some people have no symptoms with gastritis, while others experience upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and fullness. Treatment typically involves removing the underlying cause, like stopping NSAID use or treating an H. pylori infection. Diet and lifestyle changes like avoiding spicy, fatty, or acidic foods can also help manage symptoms.

Can gastritis lead to other conditions?

For most people, acute gastritis is temporary and heals on its own once the underlying cause is addressed. But in some cases, chronic gastritis that persists over many years can eventually lead to other more serious problems such as:

  • Stomach ulcers: Ulcers are sores that form in the stomach lining when it has been weakened by inflammation. Chronic gastritis allows stomach acid to further erode the damaged lining, resulting in ulcers.
  • Atrophic gastritis: This is a type of chronic gastritis where inflammation causes the stomach lining to thin over time. Atrophic gastritis increases the risk of stomach cancer.
  • Stomach cancer: Long-standing chronic gastritis can sometimes cause precancerous changes in stomach cells that may eventually develop into stomach cancer, especially if caused by H. pylori infection.
  • Pernicious anemia: Chronic atrophic gastritis can damage the cells that produce intrinsic factor, needed to absorb vitamin B12. This can lead to a B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia.

So while acute gastritis often resolves on its own, it’s important get proper treatment for chronic gastritis. Following recommended treatment plans can help prevent complications from developing over time.

What are the complications of chronic gastritis?

Some potential complications of untreated chronic gastritis include:

Complication Description
Stomach ulcers Chronic inflammation weakens the stomach lining, allowing ulcers to form.
Atrophic gastritis Inflammation causes thinning (atrophy) of the stomach lining over time.
Stomach cancer Atrophic gastritis increases stomach cancer risk. H. pylori infection also raises risk.
Pernicious anemia Damage to cells that produce intrinsic factor impairs vitamin B12 absorption.

Getting appropriate treatment is important to prevent these potential complications of chronic gastritis.

Stomach Ulcers

One of the most common complications of chronic gastritis is stomach ulcers. Ulcers are sores that form in the lining of the stomach or upper small intestine. When the stomach lining is weakened from chronic inflammation, stomach acid can further eat away at the damaged areas, resulting in ulcer formation.

Symptoms of stomach ulcers may include burning upper abdominal pain that can improve with eating, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and weight loss. Stomach ulcers require treatment with medications to reduce stomach acid production. Without treatment, ulcers can result in serious bleeding in the GI tract.

Atrophic Gastritis

Atrophic gastritis is a type of chronic gastritis where long-standing inflammation causes thinning and loss of glandular stomach tissues. This decreases secretion of stomach acid and digestive enzymes.

Atrophic gastritis increases the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, since the loss of stomach tissues impairs absorption. It can also increase the risk of stomach cancer. Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause and monitoring for nutritional deficiencies.

Stomach Cancer

Chronic atrophic gastritis is considered a precancerous condition, as the thinning of the stomach lining can lead to abnormal cell changes that may eventually progress to cancer. Stomach cancer risk is as much as 6 times higher in people with chronic atrophic gastritis.

H. pylori infection is another major factor that can increase stomach cancer risk, especially if it causes chronic gastritis. Proper treatment of H. pylori infection can lower this risk. Catching precancerous changes early with endoscopy screening can help improve outcomes.

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia results from low levels of intrinsic factor, a protein needed to properly absorb vitamin B12 from foods. Intrinsic factor is produced by specialized parietal cells that line the stomach.

In chronic atrophic gastritis, damage to the parietal cells can reduce intrinsic factor production, leading to impaired vitamin B12 absorption and pernicious anemia. This causes symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, and neuropathy from vitamin B12 deficiency.

Pernicious anemia is treated with vitamin B12 injections or high oral doses of vitamin B12 to bypass the need for intrinsic factor.

What factors increase the risk of developing chronic gastritis complications?

Certain factors can increase the likelihood of chronic gastritis leading to complications like stomach ulcers or cancer:

  • Untreated H. pylori infection – This bacterium is the leading cause of chronic gastritis and significantly raises stomach cancer risk.
  • High alcohol intake – Excessive alcohol use can damage the stomach lining and make complications more likely.
  • Long-term NSAID use – Frequent NSAID use like aspirin or ibuprofen is a common cause of gastritis.
  • Older age – The risk of cancerous changes increases with age, with most cases occurring after age 50.
  • Smoking cigarettes – Smoking is a risk factor for many cancers, including stomach cancer.
  • Male gender – Men have a higher risk of stomach cancer compared to women.
  • Family history – Having a first-degree relative with stomach cancer raises risk.

Following recommended screening and treatment guidelines for gastritis can help prevent complications, especially in those with higher risk factors.

How can I prevent gastritis from worsening or turning into something else?

To help prevent gastritis from progressing to more serious complications, it’s important to:

  • Get tested for and treat H. pylori infection if present
  • Avoid excessive use of NSAIDs like ibuprofen
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Quit smoking if you smoke cigarettes
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Manage stress through techniques like meditation or yoga
  • Take medications or supplements as recommended by your doctor
  • Get regular endoscopy surveillance if you have chronic gastritis

Catching precancerous changes early with screening endoscopies can also improve outcomes if gastritis does progress over time. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of stomach cancer as well.

When should I see a doctor for gastritis?

You should see a doctor for gastritis if you have persistent or worsening stomach symptoms like:

  • Burning abdominal pain
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating or feelings of fullness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting blood or passing dark stools
  • Ongoing appetite loss
  • Feeling tired or weak from anemia

Seeing a gastroenterologist can help determine the cause of your gastritis and rule out complications like ulcers or tumors. This is especially important if you are over 45 years old and have chronic gastritis symptoms.

How is gastritis typically diagnosed?

Gastritis can be diagnosed through:

  • Medical history – Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, diet, medication use, and other medical conditions.
  • Physical exam – Your doctor will examine your abdomen for signs of tenderness.
  • Blood tests – Blood tests can check for anemia and H. pylori infection.
  • Endoscopy – A small camera on a flexible tube is used to directly visualize the stomach lining.
  • Biopsy – Small tissue samples are taken during endoscopy to test for inflammation and abnormal cells.

Endoscopy with biopsy is the most accurate way to evaluate the severity of gastritis and rule out complications. This is especially important for those at higher risk of stomach cancer.

Upper Endoscopy Procedure

During an upper endoscopy, you will be given medication for sedation prior to the procedure. The endoscope is a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the tip that is inserted through the mouth and down into the upper digestive tract.

This allows the gastroenterologist to directly visualize the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. If areas of concern are seen, small pinch biopsies can be taken to be examined under a microscope.

Endoscopy only takes 5-10 minutes and is usually done as an outpatient procedure. It’s considered the gold standard for evaluating chronic gastritis. Any abnormalities like ulcers can also be identified.

How is gastritis treated?

Treatment for gastritis involves:

  • Making dietary and lifestyle changes – Avoiding triggers like spicy foods, alcohol, smoking, and NSAIDs can help symptoms.
  • Taking acid-suppressing medications – Drugs like proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers reduce stomach acid.
  • Treating underlying causes – This may include antibiotics for H. pylori or stopping medications causing it.
  • Taking medications to protect the stomach lining – Sucralfate can coat and protect inflamed areas.

You’ll also need treatment specifically for any complications, like PPIs and antibiotic therapy for ulcers. Close follow up is key to make sure chronic gastritis is not worsening over time.

Can gastritis be cured permanently?

For acute gastritis, the inflammation will often resolve on its own once the trigger is removed. But those with chronic gastritis may need long-term treatment and monitoring.

Successfully curing an H. pylori infection can stop the gastritis it’s causing. But for other chronic causes like autoimmune disorders, gastritis may recur after treatment stops. Long-term PPI therapy and/or regular endoscopic monitoring may be necessary.

Making healthy lifestyle changes like a balanced diet, stress management, and limiting NSAID use can help keep chronic gastritis under better control. But for most people, lifelong management is needed to prevent serious complications from developing.

What foods should you avoid with gastritis?

It’s best to avoid foods that can further irritate or damage the inflamed stomach lining. Problematic foods can include:

  • Spicy, peppery, or very salty foods
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Acidic foods like citrus fruits or juices, vinegar, and tomatoes
  • Garlic, onion, chocolate
  • Coffee, alcohol, carbonated beverages
  • Refined sugars

Instead, choose anti-inflammatory foods like:

  • Vegetables – leafy greens, carrots, broccoli
  • Fruits – bananas, melons, applesauce
  • Grains – oatmeal, rice, whole wheat bread
  • Proteins – lean meats, eggs, plant-based proteins
  • Dairy – milk, yogurt, cottage cheese

Eating smaller, more frequent meals can also ease symptoms. Probiotics may help relieve inflammation as well.

What are natural remedies for gastritis?

Some natural remedies that may help soothe gastritis include:

  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) – Derived from licorice root, it can coat and protect the stomach lining.
  • Probiotics – Can help restore gut bacteria balance and reduce inflammation.
  • Marshmallow root – The mucilage may coat and protect irritated tissues.
  • Slippery elm – May coat the digestive tract and relieve discomfort.
  • Chamomile tea – Has anti-inflammatory properties that may ease symptoms.
  • Ginger – May have anti-inflammatory and stomach soothing effects.

Always check with your doctor before trying herbal remedies, especially if you take any medications. While these options may provide symptom relief, they won’t treat the underlying cause of gastritis.


Acute gastritis often resolves on its own once the triggering cause is removed. But chronic gastritis that persists over many years does carry a risk of leading to complications like stomach ulcers, atrophic gastritis, and stomach cancer.

Getting proper treatment is key to preventing the development of these complications. This includes treating H. pylori infection, limiting NSAID use, and getting endoscopic surveillance for more severe cases. Lifestyle measures like managing stress, restricting alcohol, and eating a healthy diet can also keep chronic gastritis under better control.

While chronic gastritis usually can’t be completely cured, keeping inflammation under control and getting regular monitoring for those at higher risk are important in preventing serious consequences down the line.