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Stomach ache- Simple gas or gastritis? Let the doctor check

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th April 2010 03:00 AM

STOMACH aches are often taken lightly. While the first thing most people do when they get a stomach ache is to go to the nearest drug shop and buy pain killers, this may worsen the problem in case one reacts to the medication.

STOMACH aches are often taken lightly. While the first thing most people do when they get a stomach ache is to go to the nearest drug shop and buy pain killers, this may worsen the problem in case one reacts to the medication.

By Michael Kanaabi

STOMACH aches are often taken lightly. While the first thing most people do when they get a stomach ache is to go to the nearest drug shop and buy pain killers, this may worsen the problem in case one reacts to the medication.

Dr. Mary Nakibirango of Mulago Hospital, says stomach ache is a term used by the ordinary person to refer to all pain in the stomach and the abdomen.

The abdomen is the region that starts from below the ribs to the area just above the genitals. It is also made up of other organs like the liver, intestines, kidneys, pancreas and appendix.

Causes
Nakibirango says trauma to the stomach is usually a result of a fall, an accident or being hit in the stomach during a fight.
A suppressed immune system due to infections like malaria or HIV can also cause stomach ache, she adds.

“When your immunity is low, the normal bacteria in the stomach can multiply fast to abnormal numbers that become harmful to the stomach. The body also becomes more vulnerable to external bacteria that lead to stomach aches,” she says.

Dr. Emmanuel Ayebale of St. Catherines’s clinic cites indigestion which is a common occurrence after meals, excessive gas in the stomach and food poisoning as some of the causes of stomach aches.

Peptic ulcers, according to Nakibirango, are also a major cause of stomach ache. However, one should undergo medical tests to confirm this.
Among the most common causes of ulcers is stress and severe burns to the gut caused by excessive secretion of acid in the stomach, especially when one takes long to eat.

Emergency
Ayebare warns that there are some cases that call for emergency medical attention. “These include vomiting blood. This may be a sign of gastritis and pancreatitis.

“Diarrhoea which contains blood (dysentery) or passing black stool, is a sign of perforated ulcers and calls for immediate medical attention,” he says.

Nakibirango says abdominal conditions like appendicitis, perforated ulcers, intestinal obstruction and cancer of the stomach, which is also associated with chronic ulcers, also need immediate medical attention.

According to Ayebare, if the stomach pain suddenly becomes sharper and more generalised with a feeling of light headedness, collapsing and yellowing of the eyes, one may have hepatitis and should seek urgent medical attention.

Remedies for simple aches
Ayebare says one should lie on their stomach with a warm towel or hot water bottle on their stomach until they feel better.

One should pass out gas in case of discomfort caused by excessive gas in the stomach.

Having a light meal or glass of milk to dilute the acid in the stomach can also help.

Ayebare also recommends herbal remedies like aloe vera juice, ginger and chamomile tea to ease the digestion process in case of ingestion.

Treatment
Ayebare recommends paracetamol tablets (500mg) three times a day for three days or until the pain subsidises.
“One can also take antacids like Andrews to ease indigestion.”

Nakibirango says anti-bacterials should be given to one in case pain is due to a bacterial infection.

“In cases of peptic ulcers, where helicorbacter pylon bacteria is present in the stomach, triple anti-bacterial therapy is offered for two weeks. This usually includes a combination of three antibiotics. This combination costs about sh20,000,” Nakibirango says.

She says those with intestinal obstruction and perforated ulcers can go for surgery at the general wing of Mulago Hospital. “This costs sh100,000 on booking,” Nakibirango says.

You can prevent stomachache
Do not stay hungry for long periods.
Eat food on time and in sufficient amounts to avoid ulcers.

Those who suffer from ulcers should avoid spicy foods since they worsen the situation.
Avoid foods you are allergic to in order to control the accumulation of gas in the stomach and indigestion.

Reduce on smoking and alcohol. These increase the risk of gastritis.
Avoid the use of medication like ibuprofen and diclofenac, unless prescribed by the doctor. These worsen ulcers and cause stomach pain.

Do not consume cold food and those from unhygienic sources, this is a major cause of food poisoning, which may result into stomach.

Visit the doctor for regular check-ups. This leads to early diagnosis and treatment.
Compiled by Michael Kanaabi

Stomach ache- Simple gas or gastritis? Let the doctor check

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