Gastroparesis is a condition when there is a delay in the emptying of solid foods from the stomach, where there is no growth or mechanical obstruction. It results in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, belching, bloating, feeling full with a small amount of food, and sometimes upper abdominal pain.
Almost 10 lakh men and 40 lakh women in the USA have developed this condition over the recent few years. However, the occurrence of this condition is very uncommon in India and the possibility of someone encountering it is also sometimes ruled out without a proper diagnosis. But it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry. Let’s learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Gastroparesis for a better patient outlook.
What Causes Gastroparesis?
The common causes are
After surgery - Surgery on the stomach, upper intestine or on the chest can result in gastroparesis due to damage to the vagus nerve, which in many cases is temporary.
Neurological diseases - such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or others can cause gastroparesis. In fact, one of the most common causes of gastroparesis is diabetes, where subtle damage to the gastric nerve happens.
Due to certain medicines- some medicines for psychiatric and neurological disease, some calcium channel blockers for high BP, and a few others can cause gastroparesis.
Some other less common causes include autoimmune disease and post viral gastroparesis.
What Are the Symptoms of Gastroparesis?
- Reduced Appetite
- Feeling full of small quantities of food
- Abdominal bloating or pain
- Heartburn or reflux disease
- Weight loss due to low-calorie intake
- Poor blood sugar levels
Complications Arising From Gastroparesis
Severe gastroparesis can give rise to complications:
- Dehydration - We tend to vomit when the food doesn’t get processed in the stomach and hence the frequent vomiting tends to result in dehydration.
- Malnutrition - Usually patients suffering from Gastroparesis have a poor appetite which means that their body doesn’t get proper nutrition. The loss of appetite results in malnutrition.
- Bacterial Infection - Food that doesn’t get digested stays in the stomach and if it stays too long then it can start to ferment and lead to a bacterial infection. Additionally, food that stays in the stomach can harden into a solid collection and that solid collection can prevent the food from passing into the small intestine.
- Blood Sugar Abnormalities – People who have diabetes and gastroparesis can furthermore experience certain abnormality in the blood sugar levels.
Treatment of Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis is not a self-diagnosed condition and the medical examiner usually conducts several tests to rule out the prevalence of any other condition. If the aforementioned symptoms are encountered then you should immediately reach out to your general practitioner.
Gastroparesis is a chronic condition and the treatment doesn’t always cure it. However, there are certain steps that one can take to manage the condition and live a fulfilling life.
- Dietary changes– Usually people do well with 4-5 meals taken daily in small portions that are also low in fat and non-soluble fibre. Frequent small no spicy meals will ensure that the body gets ample nutrition and small portions will be easily processed. It is highly advisable for the patients to chew the food thoroughly as the stomach is not able to grind it on its own. Pureed food for people who are unable to chew through their food. Carbonated drinks, alcohol, smoking is not advisable for gastroparesis patients
- Medication - There are certain medicines called prokinetics that can help in lowering the effects of gastroparesis. Also, supplementation with certain vitamins and maintain hydration is needed
- Surgical Treatment - In severe cases, a feeding tube is surgically placed in the small intestine. Doctors alternatively also recommend a gastric venting tube to help release the gastric contents. Some patients are also given IV fluids to restore normal bodily functions. All these surgical treatment options are recommended on the basis of the patient’s profile.
A person suffering from gastroparesis should see the doctor so that serious and life-threatening causes of gastric obstruction can be ruled out and treatment can then be offered. If the symptoms do not improve with dietary therapy, one must seek medical help to maintain nutritional status.