Gastroparesis is a condition in which your stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. It can be caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which regulates the digestive system. A damaged vagus nerve stops the muscles in the stomach and intestine from functioning, preventing food from moving through the digestive system properly. Often, the cause of gastroparesis is unknown.
While gastroparesis is a relatively uncommon disorder, it can be very debilitating for those who suffer from it. Gastroparesis can have a significant impact on quality of life including the physical, emotional, and financial aspects of life. Sufferers may find that the nausea, discomfort, and pain associated with gastroparesis interferes with their ability to work, socialise, and maintain normal eating patterns. In severe cases, the inability to properly digest food can result in hospitalisation for fluid and nutrition supplementation, or sometimes the need for extra nutritional supplementation by a tube.
The Causes of Gastroparesis
The causes of gastroparesis can include:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Gastric surgery with injury to the vagus nerve
- Medications such as narcotics and some antidepressants
Rare conditions such as: amyloidosis (deposits of protein fibers in tissues and organs) and scleroderma (a connective tissue disorder that affects the skin, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, and internal organs)
The Symptoms of Gastroparesis
There are many symptoms of gastroparesis, including:
The Complications of Gastroparesis
Some of the complications of gastroparesis include:
- Food that stays in the stomach too long can ferment, which can lead to the growth of unwanted bacteria.
- Food in the stomach can harden into a solid collection, called a bezoar which can cause obstructions in the stomach that keep food from passing into the small intestine.
- People who have both diabetes and gastroparesis may have more difficulty because blood sugar levels rise when food finally leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. Blood sugar will have to be closely monitored.
Treatment of Gastroparesis.
Treatment of this condition depends on the cause, the severity of the symptoms and complications, and how well the patient responds to different treatments. Sometimes, treating the cause may stop gastroparesis. If diabetes is causing the gastroparesis, a dietitian should be consulted in order to modify the diet and control the patient’s blood glucose levels. When the cause of gastroparesis is not known, a doctor may provide treatments to help relieve the symptoms and treat complications (The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/dgestive-diseases/gastroparesis/treatm… Accessed 30 July 2019).