The Watermelon Stomach Condition and Its Treatment

The medical term for a watermelon stomach explains exactly what it is, although it takes some work in translating it into lay terms to fully appreciate the meaning. The medical term is gastric antral vascular ectasia. Gastric means “relating to the stomach”, antral vascular is from the Latin, meaning blood vessels in the stomach, and ectasia means distention, or a swelling, stretching, or enlarging from internal pressure.

Thus, a watermelon stomach is said to occur when the cavity of the stomach expands, causing the blood vessels to dilate. The dilated blood vessels create streaks, something like the streaks we see on the surface of a watermelon, hence the name. The blood vessels sometimes burst, and it is the internal bleeding that results that needs to be addressed once the condition has been diagnosed. While the medical term is somewhat of a mouthful, there is seldom a need to remember it, since the disorder is quite rare. It is not a disease, but rather a condition, a condition that is usually brought on by some other disease or disorder, or occasionally as the result of an injury. The streaks do not appear on the outside of the body. You can't see that someone has this condition, except that the stomach may appear to be somewhat distended. The streaks appear on the lining of the stomach, which is to say on the inside of the stomach, and are usually detected during an endoscopic exam, during which a physician is able to view the inside of the stomach and the stomach lining.

Causes And Symptoms Of The Condition

This type of condition can affect anyone, but the majority of cases involve middle-aged or older women. The swelling or distention of the stomach is more often than not caused by cirrhosis, although there are a number of gastrointestinal disorders that can also bring it about. Those who suffer from chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome will have a higher risk of developing this condition.

The most common symptom of a watermelon stomach is fatigue. A person affected with the condition may also experience periods of weakness. This is due to blood loss over a period of time, or in some instances, considerable blood loss during a short period of time. In some cases, where the blood loss is substantial, it will cause more severe symptoms, such as feeling lightheaded, experiencing confusion, and experiencing chest pain. There may or may not be evidence of blood loss in the stools. In instances of heavy bleeding, blood may occasionally be vomited up.

Treat The Symptoms, The Condition, And The Cause

Treatment of the condition quite often involves a three-pronged approach. First, efforts will be made to relieve the symptoms the patient is experiencing, although without treating the cause it may not be possible to eliminate the symptoms altogether. Next, an effort will be made to halt the internal bleeding, which in some instances may require surgery. Finally, if the condition has been brought about by some other disorder, treatment of that disorder may be necessary, at least to the extent of trying to resolve the immediate problem.

Freezing, Laser Therapy, And Zapping

Since leaking blood vessels in the stomach linings can't be cauterized by burning, or at least should not be, the usual method is that of endoscopic surgery, where liquid nitrogen is used to seal the blood vessels. This technique is known as endoscopic cryotherapy. If the patient has lost a substantial amount of blood, the procedure will usually be followed by a blood transfusion.  The recovery time can take up to a month. There are other methods as well, including laser therapy, and a method known as argon plasma coagulation.

Argon plasma coagulation is a rather intriguing procedure. It is an endoscopic procedure, in which a jet of argon gas is directed at an open lesion or broken blood vessel. The gas is ionized by a very high voltage, forming a plasma, and creating an electric current which serves to coagulate the open wound. This method is sometimes used in treating other parts of the gastrointestinal tract, and not just the stomach.

The Role Of The Gastrologist

The chances are, if you have visited your doctor and his examination reveals some type of a stomach disorder, but he is not certain exactly what it is, or how it should best be treated, he will probably refer you to a gastrologist. In lay terms, a gastrologist is a stomach doctor, one who specializes in stomach diseases and disorders. It is the gastrologist who will perform the endoscopic examinations to determine exactly what the problem is. The gastrologist may recommend the course of treatment, but if surgery is required he will likely refer you to a third physician, in this case a surgeon, although the gastrologist may elect to be present during the surgery.

Although having a watermelon stomach condition would certainly not be any fun, and in some instances could be quite serious, the various means of treating the condition are quite interesting, being somewhat “cutting edge” in the medical field.


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