What is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a disease of the stomach. The term means partial paralysis of the stomach and it means that your stomach cannot empty itself of food in the normal way. People living with this condition have damaged nerves and this means muscles cannot function effectively at their normal strength and coordination. This means the digestive system is slower than it should be and there a number of ways to treat and manage the condition.
Gastroparesis is a common condition in people living with long-term diabetes, but it can also occur in other situations. If you are concerned about any symptoms which could be gastroparesis, look to get a referral from your GP.
Causes of Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis is caused by injury to the nerves including the vagus nerve. When functioning normally, the vagus nerve tights the stomach’s muscles helping food to move along the digestive tract.
Gastroparesis occurs when this nerve is damaged by diabetes or occasionally in other circumstances. Once the nerve is damaged it can prevent the muscles in the intestines and stomach from functioning. This stops food from moving from the stomach to the intestines.
Symptoms of Gastroparesis
The symptoms of gastroparesis include:
- Persistent nausea
- Gastroesophageal reflux (when the stomach contents moves back into the oesophagus)
- Vomiting undigested food
- Enlargement of the abdomen (bloating)
- Chronic pain in the abdomen
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Poor blood sugar control
These symptoms can be indicative of several conditions, so it is important to get a professional examination and diagnosis.
Gastroparesis may be apparent as a condition occurring alongside diabetes. Your doctor should go through your symptoms and medical history, and you may need blood tests and blood sugar level testing too.
There are further tests to specifically diagnose gastroparesis usually a solid gastric emptying study. This test determines how a meal passes through your body and the time it takes. The test involves eating a meal tagged with radioactive isotope.
Images will then be taking of your stomach, and you will need to return later, usually within two to four hours to further analyse the progress of the meal.
Gastroparesis is a chronic condition and unfortunately cannot be cured. This doesn’t mean you cannot find treatment and the condition can be managed. Patients with gastroparesis due to diabetes should make a considered effort to control their blood glucose level which can help to minimise the impact of gastroparesis. Some patients can benefit from medication, with a range of options including:
- Antiemetics: to help to control the nausea.
- Erythromycin: an antibiotic which can cause the stomach to contract which can help to move food through the digestive system.
- Metoclopramide: this drug can be taken before you eat, and it causes your stomach muscles to contract. This helps the food to move through your stomach.
A new alternative to the medication available is Gastric Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy (G-POEM). G-POEM is an endoscopic procedure which relaxes the pylorus (the opening from the stomach into the duodenum) and allows food to pass more freely from the stomach into the small intestine.
Dr Haidry is an experienced endoscopist and one of a small number who are performing the G-POEM procedure worldwide. Dr Haidry will discuss this treatment option with patients who are suitable.
To make an enquiry or appointment please contact Dr Rehan Haidry's secretary