HEARTBURN: IT MAY BE MORE THAN JUST ACIDITY

The next quarter in medico-social terms, is going to be one of gastrono mical temptation.For the culinary delights arising from festival indulgence and then continuing through with the gourmet celebrations of the wedding season, will make the palette rule the mind.

For the `over indulgent’, the stomach will be the centre point of both–satisfaction and consequent distress.

I am not going to allude to the indigestion that one associates with over eating. Nor am I going to go down the often travelled, standard hyperacidity pathway . I want to draw focus to that gastric condition which is caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter Pylori, an infection which mimics the presentation of a peptic ulcer but needs a specific line of treatment.

This helical bacterium is usually found in the stomach asymptomatically in 80% of patients where it resides silently .

However it can burrow into the superficial lining of the stomach and produce inflammation and then ulceration. The pain in the epigastric and retrosternal area results in distress which is similar to acidity and precipitates heartburn, nausea, vomiting and belching. Whilst 20% of harborers develop stomach or duodenal ulcers, if untreated 2% can even develop stomach cancers. All sorts of standard antacids seem to provide only temporary relief and undetected, the patient becomes miserable and might even start losing weight.

Often the diagnosis of ulcer is invoked and an aggressive anti-ulcer regime is embarked upon but fails to provide full relief. It is only when the physician asks for an endoscopy with biopsy , that the diagnosis of H Pylori infection is made.

Today , whilst endoscopy (procedure in modern times is simple, short, painless and safe) is the gold standard, an H.Pylo.breath or blood test has also been developed. The course of treatment is specific and short (about two weeks) and ensures speedy , symptomatic and complete recovery . The prescription of antibiotics seems to melt away , what appeared to be the ulcer symptoms, swiftly and the patient is a changed person.

The aim of highlighting this increasingly common condition is the fact that gastric symptoms are the most neglected, haphazardly and incompletely treated, with patients often using the term `gastric’ to describe all sorts of abdominal distress. From home remedies to indigenous concoctions, potions and powders, Indians abound with the supposedly `best’ cure for this.

Importantly , what the mind knows, the eye sees and for this infection you need those specific antibiotics. If suspected early, it can be diagnosed quickly and saves the patient enormous distress and economic and social stress. So in the forthcoming months when `Peit Pooja’ will be the name of the game, remember you have one more ace in your quiver-full of therapeutic arrows, but let your doctor look for and diagnose it. The discovery of an infective cause provides a complete response in the “finalcut”, leaving behind no “mushkil in the dil”, quite unlike similar chronic dyspeptic sufferers, who have to live with their symptoms. Source: TOI