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What is Gastroparesis?

stomach

When the stomach takes more time than normal to empty the food inside of it, the delayed gastric emptying is known as gastroparesis. Typically, this is caused by weakened or abnormally formed muscles in the stomach. Currently, there is no known cure for this condition, but there are numerous medical procedures and treatments that can help manage the symptoms once a patient receives a proper diagnosis.

The Cause

Gastroparesis can occur at birth or can become more prominent later on in life. While the precise cause of the condition is not known, there is some understanding of what happens to a person suffering from gastroparesis. The nerve signals in the stomach do not function properly because of an underlying nervous system condition or a problem with the vagus nerve, which moves food along the digestive tract. When symptoms appear later on in life, this usually means the vagus nerve became damaged around the time of symptoms presenting themselves. Often times this damage occurs from diabetes or a physical injury. Unfortunately, it is currently unknown how to fix this damage. This is also the case with a variety of stomach issues that can result in gastroparesis such as infection, bulimia, anorexia and medications that target the stomach.

Symptoms

The severity of symptoms that patients with gastroparesis experience vary but typically include:
-Pain in the abdomen
-Nausea or vomiting
-Bloating after meals
-Excess gas
-Heartburn
-Fluctuations in blood sugar non-related to diabetes
-Inability to eat larger quantities of food
-Unexplained weight loss
-Nutritional deficiencies

Diagnosis

Prior to conducting any testing, your doctor will want to know a full medical history. You will also have to explain your symptoms in great detail. Once your doctor suspects a condition like gastroparesis exists, you may be asked to undergo some diagnostic testing. This can include ultrasounds of the abdomen to check on your internal organs and rule out any other issues such as gallbladder disease or pancreatitis. An upper endoscopy can be used to look at the lining of your stomach and see if the emptying process is functioning as normal.

Treatment Options

If you have a confirmed case of gastroparesis, then you may want to consider treatment options to help you lead a normal life. Of course, if you have another medical condition present such as diabetes, you will want to make sure that condition is well managed as well. Considering dietary changes, medication and surgery are all options. Medications are available to help control symptoms you may be experience like bloating and gas. You can also take medications which help stimulate your digestive tract; speeding things up a bit. All medications come with side effects so it is important to speak with a trusted medical professional to weigh the pros and cons of taking a drug.

If medication is not helping your condition and you feel you would like to go a step further, there are surgical options to consider. Surgery involves a stomach bypass surgery to completely bypass the stomach you stomach stapling. These procedures can be very invasive and involve a lot of recovery so if you can make dietary changes and utilize medications to keep you in a stable condition, this may be the way to go. Typically a doctor will refer you to a nutritionist that will help you with things like increasing your cooked vegetable intake, reducing fat content in foods, drinking enough water during and after meals, avoiding foods with excessive fiber and decreasing the size of your meals while increasing the amount of times you eat.

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