Reactive Gastropathy vs. Gastritis: What's the Difference?

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on February 20, 2024
3 min read

Gastropathy or gastritis? Both affect your stomach lining or mucosa. If you've received either diagnosis, it's easy to confuse the two. However, these conditions are different and affect your body in different ways. 

Gastritis is a medical term that describes inflammation in your stomach lining. Gastropathy means your stomach lining is damaged but not inflamed. Gastropathy and gastritis may be chronic, which means they develop slowly over time, or they may be acute, appearing suddenly and lasting only a short time. Some types of gastropathy and gastritis cause tiny breaks called erosions in your stomach lining that can lead to ulcers

Reactive gastropathy is also called chemical gastritis and is a result of common chemicals that irritate the stomach lining. 

Reactive gastropathy is a result of the long-term use of alcohol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It may also be caused by acid reflux, a condition in which stomach acids flow backward from your small intestine to your stomach. 

Some people with gastropathy don't have any symptoms. Others may experience indigestion, or dyspepsia, as well as the following:

  • Stomach pain, typically in the upper abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Feelings of fullness during or after a meal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Left untreated, gastropathy may cause erosions or ulcers, or even cause your stomach lining to bleed. If you are experiencing a combination of the following symptoms, call your doctor right away:

Sometimes you will have mild bleeding in your stomach but may not notice any blood in your stool, a condition known as occult bleeding.

Treatments depend on what is irritating your stomach. If you take NSAIDs regularly and notice symptoms, your doctor may tell you to take a break or suggest a different medication to alleviate your pain. 

If acid or bile reflux is the cause of your reactive gastropathy, your provider may suggest medicines that heal the stomach lining or surgery to stop excess bile from flowing into your stomach. 

Gastritis is a medical term for inflammation of the stomach lining. 

This condition may be acute (occur suddenly) or chronic (develop slowly). Severe gastritis may lead to ulcers and can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer. Typically, it's not serious and improves after treatment.

The most common cause of gastritis is a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, or h. pylori, which causes stomach inflammation. The bacteria weakens your stomach lining, which allows digestive juices to damage the mucosa. Certain diseases, like Crohn's disease, can increase your risk of developing gastritis. 

Like gastropathy, gastritis symptoms are not always obvious. Sometimes, you won't have any, or you may mistake them for indigestion. Symptoms include: 

  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting or vomiting blood
  • Black stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stomach pain in your upper abdomen

Gastritis isn’t contagious, but you may be exposed and infected with the bacteria, h. pylori, through contaminated food or water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom and before you make or eat food. 

Your provider will treat your gastritis depending on its cause. There are certain medications that kill bacteria, while other treatments alleviate indigestion. Gastritis treatment includes:

Antibiotics. These kill the bacterial infection. You may have to take more than one type for a few weeks.

Antacids. These medications are made of calcium carbonate, which reduces stomach acid and helps relieve inflammation. 

Histamine (H2) blockers. Medications like cimetidine (Tagamet®) help reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. 

Proton pump inhibitors. Omeprazole (Prilosec®) and esomeprazole (Nexium®) also reduce acid production and are also used to treat stomach ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).