This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
Inflammation of the stomach may be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation of the stomach is generally caused by something which produces great irritation, such as the introduction of poisonous substances, a blow, or the drinking of large quantities of some cold liquid when the body is heated.
The symptoms of acute inflammation of the stomach are pain, usually of a burning character, with frequent vomiting, especially when anything is taken into the stomach, and often with hiccup, and with tenderness and tension of the upper part of the abdomen. To these local symptoms are added fever of a low type; and a small weak pulse. At first, indeed, the pulse, although small, is generally sharp and hard; but it soon becomes thready and feeble. The patient is pale and faint, with collapsed features, cold extremities and a damp skin.
The pain at the stomach is usually increased on pressure, and the breathing is short and laboured. There is a pricking and burning sensation, with anxiety and restlessness,and intense thirst,while all that the patient drinks, even cold water, is usually immediately rejected by vomiting.
Hiccup does not always accompany acute gastritis. It sometimes occurs early; but more generally it comes on late, when the patient is sunk and much debilitated.
The bowels are sometimes confined; sometimes, on the contrary, when the inflammation has been caused by some corrosive poison, diarrhoea of a dysenteric character ensues, with much griping and irritation at the fundament.
Intense inflammation of the stomach may be expected to be rapid in its progress. It may destroy life within twenty-four, or even twelve hours. When it is fatal, it generally is so within a few days, and death takes place by fainting; with a remission of the pain sometimes very sudden, and sometimes occurring only just before dissolution.
Most cases of acute inflammation of the stomach arise from the swallowing of poisons, (the proper treatment of which will be described under the head of Poisons); but large draughts of cold drink, taken when the body is hot, and especially large draughts of cold sour liquors, as cider or stale beer, are apt to produce it. Another occasional cause is the eating of very large quantities of food at one time, especially during convalescence from any serious disorder. It is an exceedingly curious fact, too, that certain poisons introduced into the skin, will produce inflammation of the stomach, with which they have not been in contact. For instance, corrosive sublimate and arsenic excite inflammation, with ulceration or sloughing of the lining membrane of the stomach, even when they are merely rubbed in a certain quantity, upon the skin, or when they are applied to the surface of a wound, or inserted into the rectum.
Early in the disease, that is, as soon as you can, apply leeches to the pit of the stomach,-the number to be regulated by the age and condition of the patient,-and when the leeches come off apply a large warm poultice over the leech-bites. Any kind of poultice will do; bread, linseed meal, or bran. If nothing to make a poultice of can be obtained at the moment, the part may be fomented with flannels wrung out in hot water. If the small, feeble pulse grows fuller and stronger, you may conclude that the bleeding has done good. The patient should be kept at rest, and in a horizontal position. It would be improper to give purgatives by the mouth, but Castor Oil mixed with gruel, or Linseed oil (warm) may be administered in the way of Enemas, if the bowels are at all confined. After the bowels have been thus cleared out, or if they should be loose and irritable, an injection of gruel or starch, containing 30 or 40 drops of Laudanum, may be given; and this may be repeated in a few hours, if necessary.
If the stomach is capable of receiving any nourishment at all, it must be given in small quantities, a tablespoonful, or a teaspoonful at a time; and that must be of the least irritating kind; such as milk, barley water, thin sago, arrow root, smooth gruel and the like.
Chronic inflammation of the stomach is a very common disorder; (and it is wonderful what an amount of ill usage the stomach will bear, almost with impunity.) Except when it results in ulceration it does not put life in jeopardy, and it is often cured. Deranging, however, the functions, and perverting the feelings of the stomach, it gives rise to the many and various symptoms of Dyspepsia; but Dyspepsia, with its many symptoms, may be, and often is, entirely independent of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation of the stomach may result in ulceration, and the ulceration may prove fatal in various ways. The ulcer may penetrate as far as the peritoneum, and excite inflammation of that membrane, whereby the stomach becomes adherent to the neighbouring parts. In these cases, prior or subsequent to adhesion, death may at length ensue, from gradual exhaustion and protracted suffering.
If an ulcer happens to lie over the track of a large blood vessel in the stomach it may eat its way into that vessel, and give rise 1 <> fatal hemorrhage. Or the ulcer may perforate the walls of the stomach, without any previous adhesion, and suffer the food, or the secretions of the stomach, to pass into the peritoneal cavity, where intense inflammation is produced, and the patient soon perishes.
Or the ulcers may at length heal. Of this we are certain, because we often find cicatrices denoting the spots which the ulcers had occupied.
Ulcer of the stomach is not an unfrequent disease. Dr. Brinton met with it in about one per cent. of his out-patients at the Free Hospital. It is much more common in women than in men; and it is mainly, though by no means solely, a disease of middle and of advancing life. Of the open ulcers of the stomach a certain proportion only-about one in four-go through; that is, become perforating ulcers. This accident of the ulcer is more than twice as common in females as in males; and it is a curious fact, that it occurs more often in maid-servants, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, than in any other class of persons. As life goes on, after the thirtieth year, the liability to the formation of a gastric ulcer increases, while the risk of its perforating the walls of the stomach decreases.