1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gastritis

GASTRITIS (Gr. γαστήρ, stomach), an inflammatory affection of the stomach, of which the condition of catarrh, or irritation of its mucous membrane, is the most frequent and most readily recognized. This may exist in an acute or a chronic form, and depends upon some condition, either local or general, which produces a congested state of the circulation in the walls of the stomach (see Digestive Organs: Pathology).

Acute Gastritis may arise from various causes. The most intense forms of inflammation of the stomach are the toxic conditions which follow the swallowing of corrosive poisons, such as strong mineral acids of alkalis which may extensively destroy the mucous membrane. Other non-corrosive poisons cause acute degeneration of the stomach wall (see Poisons). Acute inflammatory conditions may be secondary to zymotic diseases such as diphtheria, pyaemia, typhus fever and others. Gastritis is also caused by the ingestion of food which has begun to decompose, or may result from eating unsuitable articles which themselves remain undigested and so excite acute catarrhal conditions. These give rise to the symptoms well known as characterizing an acute “bilious attack,” consisting in loss of appetite, sickness or nausea, and headache, frontal or occipital, often accompanied with giddiness. The tongue is furred, the breath foetid, and there is pain or discomfort in the region of the stomach, with sour eructations, and frequently vomiting, first of food and then of bilious matter. An attack of this kind tends to subside in a few days, especially if the exciting cause be removed. Sometimes, however, the symptoms recur with such frequency as to lead to the more serious chronic form of the disease.

The treatment bears reference, in the first place, to any known source of irritation, which, if it exist, may be expelled by an emetic or purgative (except in cases due to poisoning). This, however, is seldom necessary, since vomiting is usually present. For the relief of sickness and pain the sucking of ice and counter-irritation over the region of the stomach are of service. Further, remedies which exercise a soothing effect upon an irritable mucous membrane, such as bismuth or weak alkaline fluids, and along with these the use of a light milk diet, are usually sufficient to remove the symptoms.

Chronic Gastric Catarrh may result from the acute or may arise independently. It is not infrequently connected with antecedent disease in other organs, such as the lungs, heart, liver or kidneys, and it is especially common in persons addicted to alcoholic excess. In this form the texture of the stomach is more altered than in the acute form, except in the toxic and febrile forms above referred to. It is permanently in a state of congestion, and its mucous membrane and muscular coat undergo thickening and other changes, which markedly affect the function of digestion. The symptoms are those of dyspepsia in an aggravated form (see Dyspepsia), of which discomfort and pain after food, with distension and frequently vomiting, are the chief; and the treatment must be conducted in reference to the causes giving rise to it. The careful regulation of the diet, alike as to the amount, the quality, and the intervals between meals, demands special attention. Feeding on artificially soured milk may in many cases be useful. Lavage or washing out of the stomach with weak alkaline solutions has been used with marked success in the treatment of chronic gastritis. Of medicinal agents, bismuth, arsenic, nux vomica, and the mineral acids are all of acknowledged efficacy, as are also preparations of pepsin.