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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. The lining of the stomach often looks red, irritated and swollen, and it may have raw areas that can bleed.

Many different illnesses and irritants acting either alone or in combination can trigger the inflammation of gastritis. Some of the most common triggers include:

  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria In addition to causing gastritis, H. pylori infections have been linked to the development peptic ulcer disease, open sores inside the stomach or part of the small intestine. However, many people have H. pylori in their stomach and have no symptoms.

  • Viral infections Brief bouts of gastritis are common during short-term viral infections.

  • Irritants Chemical and environmental irritants can damage the stomach lining and cause gastritis. Common irritants include alcohol; cigarette smoke; aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn and others).

Although gastritis can occur in people of all ages and backgrounds, it is more common in:

  • People over age 60

  • People who drink too much alcohol

  • Smokers

  • People who routinely use aspirin or NSAIDs, especially at high doses

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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