Signs and Symptoms of Gastritis

woman laying on bed and holding belly, feeling discomfort and suffering from stomachache, food poisoning, gastritis, abdominal pain.

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Gastritis is a term for a group of conditions where inflammation and redness in the stomach lining occurs. Because there is a strong acid in your stomach called bile, your stomach lining is usually somewhat resistant to damage or inflammation. However, gastritis can result in changes that last and cause chronic symptoms.

The potential progression from acute to chronic gastritis depends upon the underlying condition. Heliobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common cause of gastritis worldwide. Other potential causes may include excessive alcohol consumption, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or steroids.


Gastritis symptoms can vary from person to person and may depend upon the underlying condition causing it. Some people may not experience outward symptoms (such as pain or nausea), yet display inward gastric mucosal changes.

Symptoms tend to be different based on if you are experiencing acute (sudden onset) or chronic (prolonged condition) gastritis.

Acute Gastritis (Early Symptoms)

Acute gastritis occurs when your symptoms begin suddenly. The most common symptoms are:

  • Appetite loss
  • Epigastric pain, which is pain in the upper abdomen and usually between your ribs
  • A feeling of excessive fullness, even if you haven't eaten a lot
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

You may also have internal changes to the lining of your stomach, which healthcare providers call the gastric mucosa. A gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal conditions) may perform a test called an endoscopy to view changes to the stomach lining such as redness and swelling. During an endoscopy, a thin, flexible tube with a camera (called an endoscope) is inserted down the throat and esophagus to view the stomach and small intestine.

If the provider were to take cell samples of your intestinal lining, they may detect granulocytes. These are a type of white blood cell commonly present in acute gastritis.

Progressive Symptoms

Gastritis can lead to injuries to your stomach lining called ulcers. These ulcers can bleed and cause symptoms. Examples of bleeding ulcer symptoms related to gastritis include:

  • Black, tarry stool
  • Easy fatigue
  • Red or maroon blood in your stool
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting that has blood in it or old blood that resembles coffee grounds

You could have such a small amount of blood in your stool that you may not be able to see it. If you have other gastritis and ulcer symptoms, your healthcare provider may ask for a stool sample to determine if there are small amounts of blood in your stool.

Chronic Gastritis (Later Symptoms)

Gastritis can cause changes to your stomach lining and your ability to eat foods without unpleasant side effects. Over time, chronic gastritis from repeated exposure to medications or other medical conditions can potentially create a number of symptoms. Not all people with gastritis will have the same chronic symptoms, but the following are possible:

  • Hematological disorders: Chronic gastritis can cause problems absorbing nutrients, such as iron. As a result, you can experience iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Positive cell-based changes on stomach biopsy: One of the most effective ways to diagnose gastritis is by viewing the stomach's lining with an endoscope and taking tissue samples (a biopsy) of the stomach lining. Laboratory results from a biopsy can reveal the presence of H. pylori, a common chronic gastritis cause.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Chronic gastritis can affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, muscle weakness, appetite loss, and heart palpitations.

Many people with chronic gastritis also have an autoimmune disorder. For example, those with Hashimoto's thyroiditis (low thyroid hormone), commonly experience chronic gastritis.

Symptoms in Children

Children can experience gastritis just as adults can. Symptoms in children may include:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

These symptoms may be difficult to connect with some causes of gastritis because they closely resemble a typical stomach infection. H. pylori infections are also the chief gastritis cause in children.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Seek immediate medical attention if you have signs of bleeding related to gastritis. Presence of blood in your stool or vomit suggests more concerning symptoms, and means you should be treated quickly.

If you have sudden stomach upset and vomiting that doesn't go away or start to get better after a few days, see your healthcare provider. These could be signs of gastritis that warrant further examination.

A Quick Review

Gastritis causes symptoms that can be related to a number of conditions, foods eaten, and more. Because gastritis symptoms are similar to those of other stomach-related conditions, such as a stomach virus, you may not recognize gastritis symptoms at first. If stomach upset doesn't improve or comes and goes, see your medical provider. Because gastritis can progress to more serious symptoms, seeking an early diagnosis can be helpful in preventing complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is gastritis serious?

    Gastritis can be serious if you experience stomach ulcers and bleeding. It's always best to consult your healthcare provider if you think you may have ulcers.

  • How long does gastritis last?

    Gastritis can be acute and not last very long, or it can be chronic and last for years if left undiagnosed or untreated. The duration usually depends on what caused the gastritis.

  • Can gastritis symptoms come and go?

    Yes, gastritis symptoms can come and go. Some gastritis symptoms get worse when you eat certain foods, such as spicy foods.

  • Can you fully recover from gastritis?

    Recovery depends on what condition causes gastritis. H. pylori, the most common cause of gastritis, is treatable with medications. Other causes, such as gastric cancer, may not be fully treatable.

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