Gastroparesis: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Gastroparesis (GP), also called delayed gastric emptying, is a condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of the muscles in your stomach. It will slow or even stop the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine, preventing the stomach from emptying properly. By delaying digestion, gastroparesis may lead to symptoms such as nausea and complications.

Out of 100,000 people, about 10 men and 40 women suffer from gastroparesis. Although gastroparesis is not common, 1 out of 4 American adults have symptoms similar to those of this condition.


Symptoms

If you have gastroparesis, you may have the following symptoms:

  • feeling full soon after starting a meal
  • feeling full long after eating a meal
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • too much bloating
  • too much belching
  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal bloating
  • heartburn
  • poor appetite

In many cases, people with gastroparesis may have no noticeable symptoms.

Besides these symptoms, gastroparesis can result in some complications, including:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Undigested food that hardens and remains in your stomach
  • Unpredictable blood sugar changes


Causes

Doctors can’t find the exact causes of gastroparesis in most people. But diabetes is a common underlying cause of gastroparesis. It can damage a nerve called vagus nerve that controls the muscles of the stomach and small intestine. Once this occurs, your muscles can’t work as normal, slowing or even stopping the movement of food. Other possible factors contributing to it include:

  • injury to the vagus nerve due to surgery on your esophagus, stomach, or small intestine
  • hypothyroidism
  • certain autoimmune diseases, such as scleroderma
  • certain nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • viral infections of your stomach


Diagnosis

Doctors make a diagnosis of gastroparesis with medical history, a physical exam and medical tests. Tests used to look for signs of gastroparesis complications and rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms include:

  • Gastric emptying study

It is the most important test to diagnose gastroparesis. This test can help monitor rate at which food leaves the stomach.

  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy

This test allows your doctor to visually examine your upper digestive system.

  • Ultrasound

This procedure enables your doctor to know whether problems with your gallbladder or your kidneys could be causing your symptoms.

  • Upper gastrointestinal series

After drinking a white, chalky liquid that coats the digestive system, you can make abnormalities show up to help your doctor diagnose gastroparesis.


Treatment

Treatment options for gastroparesis depend on many factors, such as cause, severity and response of treatment. If the cause has been identified, treating the cause may stop gastroparesis at the same time. If the cause remains unknown, your doctor will recommend treatments that improve symptoms and reduce complications.

Changes to your diet

Many people can well manage their gastroparesis with diet changes which help maintain adequate nutrition. You may be recommended to:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently
  • Chew food thoroughly
  • Eat well-cooked fruits and vegetables rather than raw fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and broccoli, which may cause bezoars
  • Choose mostly low-fat foods, but if you can tolerate them, add small servings of fatty foods to your diet
  • Try soups and pureed foods if liquids are easier for you to swallow
  • Drink about 34 to 51 ounces (1 to 1.5 liters) of water a day
  • Exercise gently after you eat, such as going for a walk
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol and smoking
  • Try to avoid lying down for 2 hours after a meal
  • Take a multivitamin daily

Medications

Medications that may help treat gastroparesis include:

  • Medications to stimulate the stomach muscles
  • Medications to control nausea and vomiting

Surgery

For people whose conditions are so severe that they are not able to tolerate any food or liquids, doctors may use a feeding tube (jejunostomy tube). A gastric venting tube that can help relieve pressure from gastric contents may also be recommended.


Keyword: gastroparesis.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.