It is situated in the epigastric region (see Abdomen), towards the left side, in the form of a horizontal, long sack, furnished at each end with an orifice, namely, the upper or left, called the cardia, where this organ is connected with the gullet; and the inferior, or right opening, termed the pylorus, by which it is united to the intestines.
As the function of the stomach is of the first importance in the animal economy, it will be useful to give a concise view of the principal affections to which it is liable.
If foreign substances have, by accident, been swallowed, such as nails, stones, pieces of bones, coins, knives, etc. the proper remedies will be those of a fat or oily nature, namely, castor-oil, butter-milk, spermaceti, mucilages, etc. clysters of similar liquids; in order to sheath the internal membranes against injury; and, inconsequence of which, indigestible bodies are generally evacuated with the feces, though sometimes not without pain; so that, in some instances, they have proved fatal. The farther treatment is stated, vol. ii. p. 413, and vol. iii. p. 196.
Of a more serious complexion, however, is an inflammation of the Stomach, or Gastritis : the principal symptoms of this malady are, violent fever of the malignant kind; anxiety; intense heat and pain in the epigastric region ; nausea and vomiting, attended with hiccough.
Causes: - Acrid substances, for instance, glass, corrosive sublimate, arsenic, etc. too large quantities of nitre; suppressed perspiration ; repulsion of the gout, particularly in plethoric and bilious habits ; violent passions; cold draughts when the body is heated ; though it may also arise from external injury sustained in other parts, such as the brain, etc.
This dangerous malady, generally, terminates between the fourth and eighth day. If the symptoms continue without intermission, and become more violent, a mortification may be apprehended: thus, sudden cessation of pain; low pulse, and great weakness, denote that gangrene has taken place; but, in less urgent cases, where no remarkable changes happen for several days, a more favourable event may be expected; though, when the affection proceeds from injuries in other parts, or the swallowing of poisons, it generally terminates in death.
Cure : - The chief remedy to be resorted to here, is immediate and copious bleeding, after which a blister ought to be applied to the pit of the stomach : great benefit has also been derived from emollient, and mildly opening clysters. The patient's beverage should be of a diluent, mucilaginous, or oily nature, and taken in small quantities ; the latter will prove salutary, where the irritating substance has, for some time, remained in the stomach. If the disorder originated from corrosive poisons, the most proper means Of decomposing them, and of counteracting their effects, will be timely and copious draughts of a solution of soap; or sulphureous waters ; warm baths, and the subsequent use of mucilaginous liquids. - See vol. i. p. 110. After the cure has been successfully effected, the convalescent should be cautious in his diet, avoiding all coarse and heating food ; he ought likewise carefully to keep his stomach and feet warm, especially in changeable weather.
Another species of gastritis, is th erysipelatous, which occurs more frequently than is generally understood : the signs by which the existence of this affection maybe ascertained, are as follow : the mouth and fauces appear inflamed ; there is pain at the pit of the stomach, attended with frequent vomiting, and a slight fever. The disorder often changes its place, and sometimes spreads through the whole alimentary canal, where it occasions vomiting or diarrhcea. In most instances, it proceeds from acrid substances introduced into the stomach, and from internal causes, the nature of which has not been hitherto discovered ; though it also frequently appears as a symptom of putrid fevers, and during convalescence in general.
Cure: - When this inflammatory complaint arises from acrid substances, it will be necessary to take copious draughts of warm, bland liquids, with a view to excite vomiting, by which it may be removed ; or, if it proceed from mineral poisons, recourse should be had to the antidotes mentioned under their respective heads. - Bleeding, in this case, is neither advisable nor safe, especially if the patient be in a debilitated state : on the contrary, small quantities of vegetable acids, and the careful use of the Peruvian bark, will be productive of good effects.
With respect to the method of treating Indigestion, we refer the reader to that article.