The stomach is a muscular organ located on the left part of the upper abdominal region between the esophagus and small intestine. Responsible for digesting food, it is the most important organ in the digestive system. To break down food and enable digestion, the stomach muscles constantly contract and secrete digestive enzymes and acids. Once the food is partially digested, the stomach sends it to the small intestines.
The stomach has four sections:
- The cardia refers to the part of the stomach where food from the esophagus enters. It is found near the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that separates the contents of the stomach from that of the esophagus.
- The fundus is the distinct curve at the upper part of the organ.
- The body is the central part of the organ.
- The pylorus is the lower part of the stomach responsible mainly for emptying its contents into the small intestine. It is connected to the pyloric sphincter, the valve that separates the contents of the stomach from that of the small intestine.
Common Stomach Problems/Conditions
Gastroesophageal reflux disease – More commonly known as GERD, this condition occurs when food travels back up the esophagus instead of going straight into the stomach. Its major symptom is heartburn.
Stomach ulcer – Ulcers are caused by erosions that affect the stomach lining. They may develop due to certain infections or the improper or excessive use of some medications. This can cause abdominal pain and internal bleeding in the stomach.
Gastritis – Gastritis refers to the inflammation of the stomach, resulting in pain and nausea. It is linked to several causative factors including excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and incorrect use of certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs. It is also linked to H. pylori bacteria and certain viral infections.
Stomach cancer – Cancer develops when malignant cells grow in the stomach. Some cases have been traced back to smoking, Epstein-Barr viral infection, and exposure to certain substances such as asbestos and those used in coal and rubber industries.
Common Gastric Procedures and Surgeries
Medical conditions involving the stomach are usually diagnosed and treated using the following procedures:
Endoscopy – An endoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used for the diagnosis and treatment of stomach diseases. It is performed by inserting an endoscope, a flexible tube with a camera attached to one end, through the mouth and into the stomach. It gives doctors access to the stomach without the need for a large abdominal incision.
Abdominal surgery – An open abdominal surgery sometimes becomes necessary, especially in severe cases associated with stomach cancer, internal bleeding in the stomach, and ruptured ulcers.
Stomach biopsy – If abnormal cells or tissue are suspected to be present in the stomach, a biopsy is performed to take a sample of the cells for further analysis.
pH testing – This is the primary method used for the diagnosis and treatment of GERD. Its purpose is to monitor the acid levels in the esophagus.