What is Acute Gastritis? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Jamila Blount
Everyone has experienced uncomfortable stomach cramping and pain, but have you ever wondered what causes that pain? In this lesson, you will learn about acute gastritis, including its causes, symptoms and treatment.


Irritation or inflammation of the gastric lining is called gastritis. Gastritis is further categorized by how long a person has irritation or inflammation to the gastric lining. Gastritis can be acute, or developing suddenly with high severity, or chronic, developing over a long period of time with gradual increase of irritation. In this lesson, we will focus on acute gastritis.

When the gastric lining of the stomach becomes irritated or inflamed, it swells and becomes very painful. In addition to this irritation, remember that the gastric lining releases hydrochloric acid, which aids in the digestion of food. Imagine having an open sore (gastric lining irritation) and someone pours alcohol (hydrochloric acid) on it. Ouch! This is a simple example of what a person's gastric lining is experiencing in gastritis.


The most common causes of acute gastritis are chronic usage of certain medications and a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. It can also be induced by overstimulation of nerves that release hydrochloric acid.

Gastritis caused by H. pylori bacteria

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common type of medication that can cause acute gastritis. The action of the medication is to stop the hormones that cause inflammation, which helps to reduce pain in conditions like arthritis and menstrual cramps. However, if there is excessive use of this medication, it can lead gastric lining irritation. NSAIDs block a hormone called COX-1, which reduces inflammation in the gastric lining, but also reduces the protective barrier of the gastric lining. In other words, NSAIDs fix one problem (inflammation), but create another problem (decreased protective barrier of the stomach).

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is another common cause of acute gastritis. This is a bacterium that is transmitted through saliva. H. pylori nestles into the gastric lining and eats at the tissues. This jump starts the inflammatory process, decreases the mucus that lines the stomach, and exposes the lining to the highly acidic hydrochloric acid in the stomach. If a person is not treated for H. pylori, it will lead to ulcerations or holes in the gastric lining.

H. pylori imbeds in the gastric lining
H. pylori imbeds in the gastric lining


Gastric pain is the main symptom that most people complain about. However, it is not uncommon for a person to not have any symptoms at all. Other possible symptoms of acute gastritis include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and black tarry stools.

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