Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach is unable to empty normally. Read along for an overview of the disease.
Causes and Risk Factors
Gastroparesis is usually caused by a nerve injury of some sort. When the vagus nerve, the nerve controlling stomach muscles, becomes damaged it can stop working properly. When the nerve functions properly, it contracts the muscles in the stomach to help food move through your digestive tract. If the nerve is damaged, food can sit in your stomach longer than normal.
The root cause of this nerve damage can vary. Some viral infections can be at the root of the issue. In other cases, it may be a side effect of surgery on the stomach or nerve. Narcotic pain medications can also slow the rate the stomach empties.
There are a few risk factors that increase your chance of developing gastroparesis. People with type 1 or 2 diabetes are at a heightened risk. Additionally, people with nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s or MS are at an increased risk.
Symptoms of Gastroparesis
This condition is characterized by a number of potential symptoms, which can vary by person. Vomiting, nausea, heartburn, and GERD are symptoms many people with the condition experience. Abdominal pain and bloating are also symptoms in some cases. You may feel full after eating very little and lose weight with the condition as well. You may also become malnourished and dehydrated due to the condition.
Doctors can diagnose gastroparesis with a number of tests. They may want to see how quickly your stomach empties. To do this, they can use a technique called scintigraphy in which they have you eat a light meal with a small amount of radioactive material in it. They place a scanner on your abdomen that tracks the material and the rate that food is passing through your stomach.Another test they can utilize is an upper endoscopy. Here, they use a long tube with a camera on the end to visualize your upper GI system. This can also help diagnose other conditions with similar symptoms.
Gastroparesis is often a chronic condition. As such, your doctor will focus on treating symptoms and identifying the underlying cause. If you are diabetic, you should focus on controlling your blood sugar levels, as this can reduce gastroparesis issues. Dietary changes are crucial as well. You should work with a dietitian to identify foods and habits that lend themselves to easy digestion. You can also eat smaller, more frequent meals and chew food thoroughly. In some cases, medication can also help stimulate the stomach muscles and control nausea. Follow your doctor’s advice for any prescriptions.
Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating gastroparesis. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.