Gastroparesis, also referred to as delayed gastric emptying, is a medical condition characterized by the stomach's inability to empty food normally. A blockage does not cause it, but rather a malfunction of the vagus nerve that controls the stomach muscles.

Those At Risk?

Gastroparesis can affect individuals of all ages and genders, but it's observed more frequently in women than in men, usually between the ages of 30 and 60. Individuals with diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes, are at a higher risk of developing gastroparesis due to nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels.

People with certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or chronic pain, may also be at risk. Additionally, people with certain types of surgery on their esophagus or stomach may be more susceptible. Surprisingly, in many cases, the cause of gastroparesis is unknown. This type is called idiopathic gastroparesis.

Testing For Gastroparesis

A combination of tests and medical history can help doctors diagnose gastroparesis. Tests are usually done first to look for signs of infection and diseases that can cause delayed gastric emptying. A physical exam and blood tests can also help identify the underlying causes of gastroparesis.

Your doctor may then suggest further testing, such as a barium X-ray or an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, to rule out any obstructions that could be preventing proper digestion. Your doctor may also suggest a gastric emptying study to determine if your stomach empties appropriately.

During this test, you will drink a meal containing a radioactive substance and then be monitored with a special camera to determine how quickly the food leaves your stomach. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan to help diagnose gastroparesis.

Treating Gastroparesis

Treatment for gastroparesis usually depends on the underlying cause. If the cause is diabetes, controlling your blood sugar levels may help. Treatment options for other causes can include medications to reduce stomach muscle spasms and speed up digestion, dietary changes, or even surgery. Sometimes, lifestyle modifications, such as eating smaller meals more frequently or avoiding fatty and high-fiber foods, can also help improve symptoms.

It is important to talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications, medications, or a combination of both. Managing this condition can be difficult, but with the right approach and management plan, it is possible to improve your quality of life.

For some individuals, gastroparesis can be a long-term condition. It's important to remember that treatment options are available, and you should never feel like you have no control over the situation.

Practicing Self-Care

Managing the symptoms of gastroparesis can be challenging, but it’s important to practice self-care and take time out for yourself. Ensure you get enough rest, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and find ways to relax. It's also important to talk to a mental health professional if you feel overwhelmed or depressed.

Finally, it's important to find a support system that can help you manage your condition and improve your quality of life. Talking to family and friends about how you're feeling can be helpful in managing the symptoms of gastroparesis. You could also join a support group or online community with people who have similar experiences.

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that you are not alone in your journey with gastroparesis and that there are treatment options available. With proper care and management, you can improve your quality of life and manage your symptoms.  At Needham Gastroenterology Associates, we pride ourselves on being experts who can help you if you think you are struggling with Gastroparesis. Our experienced physicians are here to answer questions or provide treatment if needed – schedule an appointment.