Watermelon Stomach (Gastric Antral Vascular Ectasia)

Despite the name, watermelon stomach is not a pleasant medical condition, by any means, and due to its severity, it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms and causes of this unusual disorder.

What is Watermelon Stomach?

Watermelon stomach (gastric antral vascular ectasia (GAVE)) is a serious gastrointestinal condition in which the blood vessels in the stomach become overly dilated. This dilation results in bleeding in the stool and intestinal bleeding. This condition has only been identified and studied for the past 70 years, and there is still a bit of mystery associated with it. The streaky red appearance of the stomach when afflicted with this condition led to the common name – watermelon stomach.

Fortunately, the long-term prognosis isn’t fatal, but even with treatment, future episodes of intestinal bleeding are not impossible. This condition is often found in conjunction with other conditions, some of which are the first clue that someone is suffering from this stomach disorder.

Symptoms of Watermelon Stomach

The most common symptoms of watermelon stomach include anemia, hematemesis, and blood in the stool. It is also closely associated with serious diseases like cirrhosis, certain chronic renal failure, autoimmune diseases, portal hypertension, and metabolic syndrome, among others.

Anemia

Due to the bleeding that often accompanies watermelon stomach, and the blood being lost intestinally, you are likely to suffer from iron deficiency anemia as a symptom of this condition.

Blood in the Stool

You will likely find blood in your stool, black oily stool, or experience bleeding from the anus if you are suffering from this condition.

Hematemesis

In some cases, people suffering from this disorder will feel physically nauseous or ill and will vomit blood, or have blood mixed in with their vomit.

Causes of Watermelon Stomach

The precise cause of watermelon stomach remains a mystery, but given the diseases that it most often presents with, researchers and doctors have a few educated guesses. Those with autoimmune disease and cirrhosis, as well as other long-term chronic diseases, often present with watermelon stomach. Other doctors believe that there is a connective tissue disorder that causes this condition to develop.

Diagnosis of Watermelon Stomach

Diagnosing watermelon stomach can be achieved through various tests, such as an endoscopy, biopsy, and ultrasound, among others.

Endoscopy

This approach to diagnosis involves sending a small tube with a light and camera into the gastrointestinal system to see whether the characteristic stripes and bleeding are present in the stomach.

Biopsy

A biopsy consists of removing a small piece of tissue from the affected part of the body to determine whether it has been infected by a specific disease.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound allows for doctors to image the final section of your stomach, where it can identify swelling and dilation of blood vessels that signify this condition.

Treatment for Watermelon Stomach

To eliminate watermelon stomach, the best options include surgery, certain medications, and even blood transfusions, as well as dietary alterations.

Surgery – Endoscopic laser surgery will help to seal up ruptured blood vessels. Argon plasma coagulation is another treatment option that can seal up ruptured and bleeding tissue.

Medication – Corticosteroids have been shown to be somewhat successful, as well as hormone therapy, to minimize the symptoms of this condition.

Diet – You should change your diet to avoid harsh, acidic foods. Eating a lot more soups and smoothies can give your stomach a break; you should also avoid caffeine and alcohol until the symptoms subside.

Transfusions – If a significant amount of blood has been lost, transfusions may be required to offset the blood loss.

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