Although your doctor is likely to suspect gastritis after talking to you about your medical history and performing a thorough exam, you may also have tests to pinpoint the exact cause. These tests include:
- Tests for H. pylori. Your doctor may recommend tests to determine whether the bacterium H. pylori is present in your body. Which type of test you undergo depends on your situation. H. pylori may be detected in a blood test, a stool test or a breath test. For the breath test, you drink a small glass of clear, tasteless liquid that contains radioactive carbon. H. pylori breaks down the test liquid in your stomach. Later, you blow into a bag, which is then sealed. If you’re infected with H. pylori, your breath sample will contain the radioactive carbon.
- Using a scope to examine your upper digestive system (endoscopy). During endoscopy, your doctor passes a hollow tube equipped with a lens (endoscope) down your throat and into your esophagus, stomach and small intestine. Using the endoscope, your doctor looks for signs of inflammation. If a suspicious area is found, your doctor may remove small tissue samples (biopsy) for laboratory examination. A biopsy can also identify the presence of H. pylori in your stomach lining.
- X-ray of your upper digestive system. Sometimes called a barium swallow or upper gastrointestinal series, this series of X-rays creates images of your esophagus, stomach and small intestine to look for abnormalities. During the X-ray, you swallow a white, metallic liquid (containing barium) that coats your digestive tract and makes an ulcer more visible.
- Treatment of gastritis depends on the specific cause. Acute gastritis caused by NSAIDs or alcohol may be relieved by stopping use of those substances. Chronic gastritis caused by H. pylori infection is treated by eradicating the bacteria. Most gastritis treatment plans also incorporate medications that treat stomach acid in order to reduce signs and symptoms you’re experiencing and promote healing in your stomach.
Medications used to treat gastritis include:
- Antibiotic medications to kill H. pylori. If H. pylori is found in your digestive tract, your doctor may recommend a combination of antibiotics to kill the bacterium. Antibiotic regimens are different throughout the world. In the United States, antibiotics prescribed for treatment of H. pylori include amoxicillin, clarithromycin (Biaxin), metronidazole (Flagyl) and tetracycline. You’ll likely need to take antibiotics for two weeks, depending on their type and number.
- Medications that block acid production and promote healing. Proton pump inhibitors reduce acid by blocking the action of the parts of cells that produce acid. These drugs include the prescription and over-the-counter medications omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (Aciphex), esomeprazole (Nexium), dexlansoprazole (Dexilant) and pantoprazole (Protonix). Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, particularly at high doses, may increase your risk of hip, wrist and spine fractures. Ask your doctor whether a calcium supplement may reduce this risk.
- Medications to reduce acid production. Acid blockers – also called histamine (H-2) blockers – reduce the amount of acid released into your digestive tract, which relieves gastritis pain and encourages healing. Available by prescription or over-the-counter, acid blockers include ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet) and nizatidine (Axid).
- Antacids that neutralize stomach acid. Your doctor may include an antacid in your drug regimen. Antacids neutralize existing stomach acid and can provide rapid pain relief. Side effects can include constipation or diarrhea, depending on the main ingredients.