What is Watermelon Stomach?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2018
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Gastric antral vascular ectasia, also called watermelon stomach, is a medical condition in which blood vessels in the stomach become dilated and present the possibility of significant internal bleeding. The blood vessels create red streaks in and on the stomach, similar to the streaks on a watermelon. People with the condition often experience fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and rapid or irregular heart rates. It can affect anyone, though it is most prominent in women who are 50 or older and have been diagnosed with cirrhosis, an abdominal injury, irritable bowel syndrome, or any of a number of different autoimmune diseases. Treatment usually involves focusing on the underlying causes, using endoscopic techniques to coagulate blood vessels, and performing blood transfusions to restore healthy blood levels.

Dilated blood vessels appear in the antral, or last part, of the stomach, as a result of distension caused by cirrhosis, trauma to the abdomen, vasculitis, graves' disease, heart failure, or disorders that affect gastrointestinal functioning. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, large bowel obstruction, and chronic constipation are at an especially high risk of developing this problem. When blood vessels dilate and erupt in the stomach, an individual is subject to extensive hemorrhaging and resulting anemia.


A person with watermelon stomach typically experiences a number of different symptoms. Individuals often report feelings of fatigue and weakness, chronic headaches, bloody stools, and shallow breathing. People who have suffered significant blood loss may experience confusion and difficulty concentrating, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, and chest pain. An individual who suffers from such symptoms should consult a medical professional immediately to obtain a proper diagnosis and explore his or her options for treatment.

A healthcare professional usually conducts an initial physical examination and asks about a patient's medical history when making a diagnosis. He or she may order a biopsy of stomach tissue or conduct an endoscopic investigation to look for telling red marks on the internal lining of the stomach. Once an individual has been diagnosed, gastrointestinal specialists usually take immediate steps to provide relief from symptoms and stop internal bleeding.

Medical professionals often try to treat the underlying causes of watermelon stomach with medication and surgery. If dilated blood vessels are causing internal bleeding, a specialist might conduct endoscopic cryotherapy to coagulate blood and seal the vessels. Endoscopic cryotherapy involves inserting an endoscope into the stomach and releasing liquid nitrogen to freeze blood vessels shut and effectively stop blood loss. An individual who has experienced severe hemorrhaging may need a blood transfusion to relieve anemia symptoms and begin the road to recovery. Most patients who receive immediate treatment for gastric antral vascular ectasia and its underlying causes begin to recover within about four weeks.


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Discuss this Article

Post 13

Does anyone with the diagnosis of GAVE get pain under the ribs right in the center?

Post 12

I am 75 and was diagnosed with watermelon stomach last year. No doctor has helped so I went to an alternative medicine doctor. We now have a plan and the first thing I did was get off Nexium. I am on probiotics and other meds. I have an autoimmune disease and GERD.

Since starting this regimen of natural meds, I now have normal blood diagnosis, with no more fusions of blood or iron. I am looking forward to much better health.

Post 11

I have a family member that was diagnosed with GAVES. Treatments included trying to cauterize the veins (three different attempts).

Finally, this family member ended up having a gastrointenstinal bypass (this individual's stomach is the size of a thimble). However, since the surgery and watching of the diet, the only thing that they have problem with is taking certain over the counter medications along with if they eat too fast. Since they have had the surgery, their blood pressure, thyroid, and anemia have all been controlled and they now take less pills for all.

Post 10

I have just been diagnosed with watermelon stomach. I was hospitalized for severe anemia and close to a heart attack. This is the second time this has happened and both times I could have died. I am not enjoying this. I was told there is no cure except ongoing monitoring, transfusions and cryotherapy. Anyone else out there been given any medication, therapy, supplements or what to help deal with this? I saw here that it is hereditary. What a wonderful gift to have given my boys and grands.

My husband is crying around about how unfair this is to him since his first wife died of ovarian cancer several years ago. What can I do? What do I tell my family? I am 61 years old and scared.

Post 9

I was diagnosed with this messed up thing called watermelon stomach. I had lpr for about four years and finally got a scope done, and yep, watermelon stomach. Beyond the reflex, I have no symptoms. I wonder how many people actually have this but have never been endoscoped?

I'm not panicking. I think this is more come on than we know.

Post 8

My mother has been informed that because she keeps bleeding after endoscopic surgery, that she will need a total gastrectomy (removal of the stomach). I want a second cryotherapy treatment. She is on blood thinners. Any input?

Post 7

I read the posts and was interested in the response to post 5 above. I am in the same situation. How are these posts answered and where?

Moderator's reply: Thank you for participating in our discussions! Unfortunately, we are not equipped to respond to specific questions, which is why we created this discussion section on each article page. In this section, a reader may discuss article topics with other readers. Whether and when your questions will be answered, however, depends on fellow readers and posters.

Post 5

I have been diagnosed with watermelon stomach about six months ago. I never had any symptoms except acid reflux and went for a gastroscope. They discovered the watermelon stomach from the scope.

I have seen a specialist and he said until I have more symptoms not to worry. I am now having a lot of upset bowel problems which I don't know if they are linked to this problem. Should I worry about what this could lead to in the future or should the cryotherapy be done now before anything does start to bleed? Thanks. --Cousins

Post 4

My husband has just been diagnosed with this. bx is pending, no serious bleeding has occurred, yet. Should he have an MRI and would doing one change the treatment. We've had a long summer with different types of problems. CABG, PE and most recent motorcycle wreck. I have trouble understanding the source of this condition.

Post 3

Kindly tell me what's the role of octreotide in water melon disease? Regards, Arvind

Post 2

@alex94: Cryotherapy is a medical technique that uses an extremely cold liquid with some instrument to freeze and then destroy abnormal skin cells. It is also known as cryosurgery.

Crotherapy for watermelon stomach involves treating the dilated blood vessels that cause bleeding. Freezing those blood vessels helps to stop bleeding. The goal is to destroy the targeted area while preserving the surrounding skin.

In simple cryotherapy techniques, the doctor dips a cotton swab (or some other applicator) into cryogen (like liquid nitrogen). The temperature is -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Post 1

Very interesting article. I had never even heard of watermelon stomach. I was reading about the treatment and saw where it said cryotherapy could be used.

What exactly is cryotherapy and how does it treat watermelon stomach?

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