Facts about gastroparesis

By: Chioma Umeha

Chioma Umeha

Gastroparesis – literally “paralyzed stomach” – is a serious condition manifested by delayed emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine after a meal. There is no cure for gastroparesis, but treatment can speed gastric emptying and relieve gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.  Gastroparesis most often occurs in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but diabetes isn’t the only cause of gastroparesis. Other possible causes are: post viral syndromes; anorexia nervosa; surgery on the stomach or vagus nerve and medications that slow contractions in the intestine, particularly anti-cholinergics and narcotics.

Others are: smooth muscle disorders, such as amyloidosis and scleroderma; nervous system diseases, including abdominal migraine and Parkinson’s disease and metabolic disorders, including hypothyroidism. Symptoms of gastroparesis: The symptoms of gastroparesis include; feelings of fullness too soon after you start eating, bloating, heartburn, upset stomach, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may be constant or may flare up from time to time with periods of relief in between.

Some patients have no overt symptoms of gastroparesis and, in people with diabetes; the only sign may be difficulty controlling blood glucose. If the gastroparesis remains untreated, it can lead to additional complications, including malnutrition, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Treatment of gastroparesis is often two-fold. First, health care providers aim to improve gastric emptying and control symptoms. Second, they treat the underlying disease causing gastroparesis, if present.

Stomach lining

People with gastroparesis are advised to eat a diet low in fat and fibre. Also, eating six small meals a day, rather than three large ones, may allow the stomach to empty its contents more easily. Some people may benefit from replacing some solid meals with liquid meals, which pass through the stomach more easily. A number of medications are somewhat effective in promoting gastric emptying and relieving the nausea and vomiting of gastroparesis.

These include metoclopramide (Reglan, Metozolv ODT) erythromycin (ERY-C and other brands), cisapride (available in the United States only through a restricted program with the manufacturer because of rare but dangerous side effects) and domperidone (not available in the United States). Doctors may also recommend use of a device called Enterra, which provides intermittent or continuous stimulation to the stomach’s muscles via electrodes implanted under the skin that covers the stomach. The treatment can improve symptoms but has little effect on gastric emptying.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on May 4, 2013.


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