Alaska Digestive Center
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The Stomach
The Stomach is an organ which has the primary function of breaking up food into smaller pieces. This process is called digestion. The stomach does this by using acid, enzymes, and mechanical forces. Acid and enzymes break down and dissolve food. The mechanical force of the stomach helps to mix the enzymes and acid with the food and break large pieces into smaller pieces. Once food is broken up it is passed on into the small intestine for absorption.

Diseases of the Stomach

The following is a brief discussion of some problems that can arise in the stomach. It is for information only and is not complete. You should always talk to your physician about the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

Gastric Ulcer- Ulcers are cuts or abrasions of the stomach. The most common causes of ulcers are Helicobacter Pylori and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Helicobacter Pylori is a bacteria that can live in the stomach. NSAIDs include aspirin most over the counter pain medications. Ulcers may cause pain but can also be asymptomatic. The biggest risk of an ulcer is bleeding which may present with vomitting up blood or passing large amounts of blood or melana (black tarry stool) being from the rectum. Blood loss from ulcers is significant and these symptoms require immediate medical attention. Gastric ulcers can also in some cases occur with stomach cancer and should be followed up to document healing.

Gastritis- Gastritis refers to inflammation in the stomach. The same things that cause ulcers can cause gastritis. It can also be caused by other things such as bile and poor movement of material through the stomach. It often has no symptoms but may cause abdominal pain.

Polyps- Polyps are small growths which come off of the stomach wall. There are many types of polyps which can be present in the stomach. Most stomach polyps are benign. If you have stomach polyps you should discuss them with your physician to determine what needs to be done.

Gastric Cancer- Gastric cancer refers to cancer of the stomach. The most common gastric cancer is adenocarcinoma. There are a variety of other stomach cancers which are less common. The symptoms of stomach cancer can include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, feeling full quickly when eating, vomiting up blood, or passing blood or black tarry stools per rectum. You should rely on your physicians for information on diagnosis and treatment of stomach cancer.

Gastroparesis- Gastroparesis is a condition where the stomach does not mechanically break up food as well. This results in food staying in the stomach longer before being passed on to the small bowel. It is more common in people with diabetes and people who have had surgery on their stomach. In very severe cases on rare occasions a bezoar or giant indigestible food ball may form in the stomach. Patients with gastroparesis are more likely to reflux acid up into their esophagus. The symptoms of gastroparesis can include abdominal fullness, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn.

For more information on the stomach and diseases related to the stomach you can use the links on our links page

In addition you can check out the Wikipedia link for more information on the stomach:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomach

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