A Brief Introduction to Stomach Diseases – Causes,Types,Symptoms and Treatment

Problems related to the digestive tract are some of the most common health threats all around the world. There are a large number of stomach problems which could have varying causes and are dealt with in different ways. However, what people refer to as “stomach diseases” could actually involve anything with abdominal pain and indigestion such as conditions like chronic pancreatitis. The term is used broadly and may cover several medical conditions, which is why you should first understand what stomach is.

Understanding the Stomach

Stomach is a sac like organ found in the upper abdominal cavity and is the central part of the digestive system. The stomach is connected to the esophagus or the food canal which is a tube like structure that takes the swallowed food inside the stomach. The stomach stores the food for a while and digests it before it is fit to pass it on to the small intestine. The opening into which stomach passes on the food is called duodenum. The gastric juices inside the stomach also contain 0.1% Hydrochloric acid for dissolving the food in a better way. The stomach is primarily concerned with the digestion of protein and its absorption.

Types of Stomach Diseases

You must understand the difference between abdominal pain and a problem that really pertains to your stomach. The following are the types of stomach problems.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Also commonly known as Acid Reflux Disease or Heartburn, occurs when stomach acid jumps into the esophagus.

stomach

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Gastritis

Inflammation, infection or erosion of the stomach wall.

Gastroparesis

Delayed gastric emptying.

Gastroenteritis

Infection of the stomach wall and the intestines. Also known as Gastro or Gastric flu. Acid Production Irregularities: The underproduction of acid known as Hypochlorhydria and excessive acid production such as in Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which also involves the occurrence of tumors and ulcers originating from organs other than the stomach.

Deep gastric ulcer

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Gastroenteritis

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Ulcers

The mucosal erosion of the acidic parts of the stomach.

Stomach Cancer

The growth of malignant cells and tumors in the stomach.

Adenocarcinoma of the stomach

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Causes of Stomach Diseases

There are several causes of stomach problems ranging from poor hygiene to poor dietary habits and from infections to reaction from certain foods. Eating disorders could result in certain stomach problems as well. The causes of various stomach problems are detailed according to the condition.

Gastroesophageal Reflex Disease (GERD)

Hiatal Hernia may be the leading reason behind the condition. Pregnancy can also cause acid reflux. Obesity, overeating, lying down right after eating, eating food with a lot of fat, eating before going to sleep and certain exercises such as an ab workout can cause acid reflux disease as well. Some medicines such tricyclic antidepressants and aspirin can cause the condition as well. The damage caused by smoking and drinking can also result in the condition. Food commonly known to cause the condition are citrus fruits, carbonated drinks, coffee, chocolate, regular tea, spicy food, garlic, onion, tomato rich cuisine and mint.

Gastritis

Gastritis is caused by the damage to the mucosal defensive wall of the stomach. Acute Gastritis is caused by alcohol consumption. Chronic Gastritis is caused by the infection of the Helicobacter pylori. The condition is also caused by bile reflux, pernicious anemia and other bacterial and viral infections.

Eating disorders ” Anorexia nervosa “

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Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is caused by the damage to vagus nerve which regulates the normal stomach movement. Some of the causes of the condition include hypertension, diabetes and viral infections. Gastroparesis can develop as a complication after gastric surgery.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is very common in the developing world due to poor hygiene and use of polluted drinking water. The condition is primarily caused by the virus called rotavirus and bacterial species Escherichia coli and Campylobacter among other infecting microbes.

Acid Production Irregularities

Acid production irregularities may be caused by one of the factors including hormone-secreting growths, infection of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, certain medicines and tumors. These irregularities may also appear as a complication to surgery. Exposure to radiation and aging are also risk factors.

Ulcers

Gastric ulcers are primarily caused by the infection of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. The use of NSAIDs can also cause the condition. Smoking is also said to be a risk factor of the development of stomach ulcers. Gastrinoma can cause severe ulcers which are very difficult to cure.

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is caused primarily by the infection of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Smoking is also caused to a critical factor leading to the development of stomach cancer. Iodine deficiency could also lead to stomach cancer.

Common Symptoms of Stomach Diseases

The following are the most common stomach problems. However, not all symptoms may appear in a particular stomach problem. The presence or absence of a particular symptom may not necessarily mean that you are suffering from a particular stomach problem or not and you should always refer to a physician in order to get the condition diagnosed correctly.

Abdominal pain can be characterized by the region it affects.

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  • Stomach or upper left abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite changes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Increased belching
  • Increased flatulence
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Stomach noises
  • Regurgitation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Blood in stool
  • Tarry stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dehydration (in case of Gastroenteritis)
  • Poor blood sugar control (in case of Gastroparesis)
  • Vomiting of blood (in case of ulcers)
  • Dysphagia (in case of cancer)

Sometimes abdominal distention may occur as well.

Diagnosis of Stomach Diseases

The diagnosis of the particular stomach problem is made by carrying out one of the following tests.

Blood Tests

  • Complete Blood Count
  • Presence of microorganisms such as bacteria
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Pathological functions
    Blood Tests

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Imaging Tests

  • X-Ray
  • Barium X-Ray
  • Upper Endoscopy
  • CT Scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Radioisotope Gastric-emptying Stomach
    Barium swallow

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Other Examination

  • Gastric and Esophageal Manometry
  • Stool Test
  • Esophageal pH Test
  • EGG or Electrogastrogram
  • ECG or Electrocardiography
  • Stomach Biopsy

Treatment of Stomach Diseases

The treatment of stomach problems is explained according to the condition.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Mild cases may find relief with over the counter medicines such as anatacids and acid reducers or the combination of the both. Prescription medicines include Histamine-2 Blockers such as Zantac, proton pump inhibitors such as Aciphex and promotility agents such as Reglan.

Lifestyle modifications such as eating in moderation, eating slowly, not sleeping right after eating, avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, losing weight and keeping a heartburn log could help you get over the condition even without any other treatment.

Gastritis

Mild gastritis is treated with non-prescription antacids. More powerful prescription medicines such as nizatidine and cimetidine could also be administered. In chronic gastritis, the aim of the treatment is the inactivity and destruction of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria colony in the stomach. Antibiotics, Cytroprotective agents and proton pump inhibitors may be prescribed for the purpose.

NSAIDs and aspirin can make the condition worse and if these medicines are required to be taken, a complementing protective medicine to prevent further damage to the stomach should also be taken. Drinking milk is also said to be helpful for reducing the bacterial activity.

Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is usually not cured and is a chronic problem. However, certain medicines such can help manage the condition in a better way. Medicines such as antiemetics are administered to control nausea and antimotility agent Reglan is taken to help the food move down the stomach by stimulating muscular contraction. Reglan is also helpful in reducing vomiting and nausea. Erythromycin is also used for inducing the similar muscular contraction. Both the drugs have diarrhea as a frequent side effect.

Gastroparesis is best treated through dietary modifications which involve eating several smaller meals. Liquid diets and food which does not leave residue behind are suitable. Food high in fiber and fat should be avoided. In serious cases intravenous nutrition, electrical stimulation for better food processing and a feeding tube are used.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is treated by adequately hydrating the patient. Oral rehydration therapy is carried out for the purpose. The disease usually does not require any medicines for its treatment, especially if it is a viral infection.

However, medicines may be used to control symptoms such as antiemetics for vomiting. Antibiotics may be administered for severe infections but are not required in most cases.

Acid Production Irregularities

Hypochlorhydria or underproduction of stomach acid is treated with Betain HCL supplements. Other dietary supplements containing minerals and vitamins particularly Vitamin B12 are administered. Probiotic America, antibiotics and antifungal medicine could also be prescribed in case of infections.

Excessive stomach acid production is curbed by proton pump inhibitors.

Ulcers

Ulcers are primarily treated with antacids in younger patients. In case of ulcers caused by bacterial infections of Helicobacter pylori, more complex antibiotic treatment is carried out. The regimen includes using a combination of antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin and Clarithromycin, with a proton pump inhibitor. Carafate is also used for the treatment. Over the counter medicines such as Ranitidine is effective in curbing symptoms.

NSAIDs worsen ulcers among many other acidic conditions and if are required to be taken may be accompanied with protective medicine such as a prostaglandin analogue.

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer is mostly treated with surgery. However, the prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer. The surgery aims for the removal of the entire or part of the stomachs including all the cancer cells or tumors and even the adjoining lymph nodes to prevent further growth of malignant cells. Innovative surgical procedures such as Endoscopic Mucosal Resection are also used which involves the removal of the lining of the stomach wall along with the cancer cells instead of the removal of the organ.

Other treatment methods include radiation therapy. It is often used in combination with surgery. It is effective in reducing the tumor and the pain caused by it. Chemotherapy is also used but is not particularly effective in the case of stomach cancer. Another approach is to combine the all possible treatment methods known as Multimodality Therapy.

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