CHECK-UP:I hurt my shoulder as a result of a minor fall and started to take over-the-counter pain killers for the pain. After about a week I developed tummy pain, nausea and started to vomit what looked like blood. When I went to my doctor he diagnosed acute gastritis – most probably brought on by the aspirin I was taking for the pain. Talk about the cure being worse than the disease.
Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation of the stomach lining. It can be caused by many things including medications such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. It can also be caused by drinking alcohol or even by infections such as the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. In some instances it can be associated with acute illness, trauma or extreme stress.
I got quite a fright when I started vomiting blood. Is this a common symptom of acute gastritis?
Symptoms can include indigestion, a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases blood or substances that resemble coffee grounds may be vomited. Stools may also contain blood and appear darker than normal.
Although a diagnosis can be made by careful history taking and examination by your doctor, other tests may also be used to confirm the diagnosis. These may include blood tests to check for anaemia, gastroscopy – an examination of the upper gastric system with a fibre optic scope – testing of the stools for the presence of blood and X-rays of the stomach and small bowel.
Antacids didn’t really help, so I’m now taking tablets to reduce the amount of acid my stomach makes.
Treatment will very much depend on the cause of the gastritis. Medications known to cause gastritis are usually discontinued, while gastritis due to stress is best treated by prevention. Antacids or other medications to neutralise stomach acid will usually relieve the symptoms and promote healing. Medications to decrease gastric acid production – known as proton pump inhibitors – may also be prescribed. And if gastritis is found to be caused by infection with Helicobacter pylori, it will be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, acute gastritis may progress to a chronic gastritis or even ulcers, requiring further treatment.
As a general rule, if symptoms of gastritis persist for longer than two or three days, if you are vomiting blood or notice your stools are darker than usual, then you should seek immediate medical advice.