Contrary to common belief, gastritis is not a single disease but rather different different conditions. "Gastritis" simply means "inflammation of the stomach," and stomach infection can be caused by a variety of factors. When the stomach becomes inflamed, it is because something has happened to irritate the stomach lining. Gastritis can be mild or severe, temporary or chronic. It can be very painful in some patients, and even fatal if it is not deal with properly.
Injury, illness, bacteria, or viruses can cause gastritis with the most prevalent cause worldwide being a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. This bacterium invades the mucous lining of the duodenum and stomach and can cause peptic ulcers in addition to gastritis. It is one of the few known bacteria that can survive the stomach's very acidic environment; most other organizations are destroyed. Luckily, it is possible to have the Helicobacter pylori bacterium in your stomach and never see any symptoms.
You can also develop gastritis due to a breakdown of the immune system. If you've had a prolonged illness, or if you are on immunosuppressant drugs for cancer treatment or have HIV, this can weak your immune system and make you more susceptible to developing gastritis.
One type of gastritis is more specifically known as erosive gastritis. This is where the stomach is not just inflamed, but is being worn away. The stomach lining can be eroded by a variety of irritants, including aspirin. Crohn's disease can wear the stomach lining away, too. Typically, a person with erosive gastritis does not know he has it at first, because it generally develops very slowly over time. Often, the person is otherwise quite healthy and shows no symptoms until finally the erosive gastritis becomes severe enough to be noticeable.
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A subcategory of erosive gastritis is called acute stress gastritis. This is when a sudden injury or illness causes a breakdown of the stomach lining and inflammation of the stomach. The injury need not even be stomach-related – sometimes an injury that involves heavy bleeding or major skin burns can cause it. The reason why these apparently unrelated injuries could cause erosive gastritis is not definitively known, but a theory is that the injuries cause reduced blood flow to the stomach as the blood being being sent to the damaged areas for healing purposes, which causes the stomach lining to become weak.
Radiation treatment can cause gastritis, too, if it is infected upon the lower left side of the chest or the abdomen, near the stomach.
Some patients who have had stomach operations, particularly to remove part of the stomach for weight-loss reasons, develop gastritis afterward. Usually the gastritis erupts in the place where tissue has been stitched together after surgery. It is thought that it happens because the surgery restricted blood flow to the lining of the stomach, or because the lining was exposed to too much bile during the surgery.