In layman’s terms, gastroparesis is a delayed gastric emptying problem. It affects the spontaneous movement of motility (stomach muscles). It is an uncommon condition that will affect 10 men out of 100,000 people, and 40 women out of 100,000, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It is more common to have symptoms of gastroparesis, which can affect one in four adults in the United States. However, gastroparesis treatment is important for patients with gastroparesis who do have the condition. Not only does it affect the quality of life, but it can lead to serious complications without gastroparesis treatment.
A good way to describe gastroparesis is that it is the partial paralysis of the stomach. The stomach muscles that move food are typically strong, but with this condition, the muscles are weak and uncoordinated, which slows down the movement of food through your digestive system. Those with diabetes develop gastroparesis more than any other group, gender, or ethnicity (diabetic gastroparesis). Gastroparesis is often mistakenly diagnosed in people who have other gastrointestinal disorders, such as acid reflux and GERD. In those without diabetes, gastroparesis should be carefully diagnosed.
Gastroparesis is often misdiagnosed because it shares symptoms with other gastrointestinal disorders. There are several hallmark symptoms of gastroparesis, including:
If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, it’s wise to consult your gastroenterologist, as treating gastroparesis is imperative. Also, these symptoms may be indicative of a different gastrointestinal complication.
The cause of gastroparesis is a nerve injury, caused by damage to the vagus nerve. When it is working properly, the job of the vagus nerve is to tighten your stomach muscles to move food through faster. Damage to the vagus nerve is typically caused by diabetes, which is usually comorbid with gastroparesis. When the nerve is damaged, food moves too slowly from your stomach to your intestines, which causes symptoms and discomfort when the stomach empties. There are certain risk factors for gastroparesis, which would give you a greater chance of developing it. The number-one risk factor is diabetes, but there are others, such as:
Also, women are more likely to develop gastroparesis than men are, as already mentioned.
If there is no gastroparesis treatment, other problems may occur, particularly if vomiting is a persistent symptom. This can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, both of which must also be treated. Also, undigested food can remain in your stomach. This can contribute to a blockage or bacterial growth. The blockage is a hard, solid mass called a bezoar. These can be life-threatening if there is no gastroparesis treatment.
Even if you don’t have diabetes, there can also be unpredictable blood sugar spikes and falls. This is because of the change in the amount and rate of food passing into the small intestine. For patients with diabetes, erratic blood sugar and its related symptoms are much worse.
If you’re experiencing several gastroparesis symptoms, then you seek health care. In order to diagnose the problem, your physician may run one of several diagnostics to see if you have the condition. These can include:
If you receive a diagnosis of gastroparesis, there are several treatment options. Your doctor may recommend a change in diet and lifestyle first. This would involve eating smaller meals, chewing food thoroughly, choosing cooked fruits and vegetables over raw ones, eating a low-fat diet, walking after you eat, avoiding alcohol, smoking, and carbonated beverages, and not eating right before lying down. This can help relieve nausea and vomiting as well as other symptoms. Your physician may also recommend medications, such as erythromycin or antiemetics.
However, sometimes more invasive gastroparesis treatment is needed. There are several options for treatment:
If you are experiencing potential symptoms of gastroparesis, you may need gastroparesis treatment. To schedule a consultation with an experienced gastroenterologist, you can contact any of Allied Digestive Health’s care centers here. We offer compassionate and comprehensive care for all of your gastrointestinal needs.
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