Gastroparesis is a health condition in which the stomach cannot empty food in a normal way, which as you might imagine, can make digesting food an uncomfortable process. It’s a somewhat rare condition, but considering that diabetes is a driving force behind its onset, gastroparesis is becoming more prevalent in today’s society. Because August is National Gastroparesis Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at the condition and explain how Dr. Bhatti and his team can help you overcome the issue if you start to show signs of gastroparesis.
Causes and Symptoms Of Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis involves a partial paralysis of the stomach oftentimes caused by nerve damage or muscular dysfunction that inhibits how food moves through the digestive system. Typically, it’s the vagus nerve that becomes damaged and affects digestive function. As we mentioned above, vagus nerve damage can eventually be caused by diabetes and poor blood sugar control, but diabetes isn’t the only underlying cause. Other causes of gastroparesis include viral infections, damage from medications, connective tissue disorders and damage from a previous gastrointestinal surgery.
Symptoms of gastroparesis include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling full quickly
Because the above symptoms tend to mimic a few other conditions, gastroparesis can oftentimes be misdiagnosed as acid reflux, GERD or a stomach ulcer. That’s why it’s so important to visit a GI specialist if you are experiencing symptoms to ensure treatment is focused on the right underlying condition.
Diagnosing and Treating Gastroparesis
If you present at a GI clinic with any of the above symptoms, your gastrointestinal specialist will review your medical history, talk with you about your symptoms and proceed with one of a few different diagnostic tests. This could be done with a blood test, a gastric emptying study or by swallowing a smart pill that measures how quickly food is moving through your digestive tract.
If a diagnosis of gastroparesis is made, your specialist will develop an individualized care plan to help relieve symptoms and make daily life more comfortable. Medications that help to increase stomach muscle contractions are one of the most common forms of treatment, and your specialist can also discuss healthy dietary changes that can work to relieve symptoms. If you have diabetes, your doctor will also discuss the importance of blood glucose management and how you can keep your diabetes from making your gastroparesis any worse.
Many people find relief through conservative methods, but if you’re still dealing with nausea or vomiting after trying some non-operative methods, surgery to address the issue may be in your future. Depending on your needs, your specialist may recommend gastric electrical stimulation surgery, which is a procedure that helps to stimulate the stomach muscles and move food through the digestive tract, or gastric bypass, which allows food to bypass a large portion of the stomach so that it can more quickly reach the small intestine. Your specialist can explain which procedure may be right for you given your symptoms and projected outcomes.
If you are dealing with digestive tract issues or are experiencing symptoms of heartburn or nausea, make it a point to connect with a GI specialist and put an end to your discomfort. For more information, or for appointment availability, give Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants a call today at (952) 368-3800.