Gastroparesis: Signs and Symptoms
August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, making it a great time to talk about this condition that affects millions of people. Although the number of people with gastroparesis is rising according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), much of the population is unaware of the condition, and most cases of gastroparesis remain undiagnosed.
Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal, spontaneous contractions of the stomach that propel food through the digestive tract. In a healthy person, the contractions quickly move food through the stomach and into the small intestine. For patients with gastroparesis, the normal contractions are slowed or absent, preventing the stomach from emptying properly.
The cause of gastroparesis in the majority of patients is unknown. Although, there are a number of conditions, procedures and medications that may increase your risk for gastroparesis, including:
- Diabetes, particularly if poorly controlled
- Nerve damage from abdominal or esophageal surgery
- Viruses impacting the nerves of the stomach
- Other conditions such as neurological diseases, connective tissue disorders and hypothyroidism
- Medications that slow the rate of stomach emptying, including some allergy and high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and narcotic pain relievers
When the stomach doesn’t empty properly, food and liquids stay in the stomach for prolonged periods of time. This can result in a range of symptoms that can greatly impair quality of life. The signs and symptoms of gastroparesis include:
- Early satiety (feeling full after consuming a very small amount of food)
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Weight loss
- Blood sugar level changes
A potential complication from gastroparesis can occur when undigested food stays in the stomach and hardens into a solid mass. This mass is called a bezoar, which can be life-threatening if it prevents food from passing into the digestive tract.
The good news is that gastroparesis can be treated with lifestyle and dietary changes, by controlling blood sugar and with medication, if needed. Gastroparesis is diagnosed with the combination of an upper endoscopy and imaging studies in a gastric-emptying study. If you are experiencing symptoms of gastroparesis, are concerned about risk factors or have other gastrointestinal concerns, contact your doctor.
GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treat multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have over 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care that you can trust. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.