Have you heard of gastroparesis? It’ll be no surprise if you haven’t. After all, it’s not very common. It’s estimated that about 4% of the population is affected by gastroparesis-like symptoms. Yet, it’s uncertain if they actually suffer from this disorder or a similar one. That means the percentage could be even lower.
To be fair, researchers are aware that others have simply gone undiagnosed. Yet, even subtracting the number of misdiagnosed people and replacing it with the undiagnosed would still give us a fairly small percentage.
Despite its being uncommon and the mystery surrounding it, this disease can actually pose a very real threat to your gastrointestinal health. That’s why it’s good to be informed about common symptoms, risk factors and treatments. But first, what is gastroparesis?
What is Gastroparesis?
This gastrointestinal disorder is a result of the stomach failing to contract properly. When translated, the term literally means “stomach paralysis.” What problems does this cause?
When the stomach fails to contract, it struggles to break down ingested food and push that food through to the small intestine. That means that digestion is limited and, therefore, the body does not gain all of the nutrients it needs.
Symptoms: A Chain Reaction
This results in a chain reaction of negative symptoms. A person might experience:
- Severe nausea, especially after ingesting food or drink.
- Vomiting, usually within a few hours after eating. Often, food is still recognizable.
- Abdominal pain, which some have described as burning, searing or gnawing.
- Bloating, which can sometimes result in difficulty breathing.
- Loss of appetite or avoidance of eating to prevent discomfort.
Have you been experiencing these symptoms? If so, consider the risk factors below to see if you have been or are now at risk.
Common Risk Factors
Research has repeatedly shown that women are far more prone to developing gastroparesis than men. This is perhaps the largest risk factor.
Additionally, this GI disorder is prevalent among individuals who suffer from diabetes. In fact, 20 to 50% of longtime diabetics are affected.
Surgical operations can also put a person at risk. Post-surgical gastroparesis can develop if there is nerve damage or entrapment after surgery to the upper abdomen.
Do you fall into any of the above categories? If so, you might want to approach your doctor with your concerns. Even if you do not necessarily have the risk factors, it’s important to note that many cases are idiopathic. In other words, they don’t have a known cause.
If you suspect this disorder as a possible cause of your suffering, get checked out so that you can either be cleared or treated. Speaking of treatment, what treatments are available should you be diagnosed with this unpleasant illness?
Courses of Treatment
The treatment that you doctor will suggest depends on the cause of the problem. For example, a person living with diabetes may need to take steps to modify their blood glucose control. On the other hand, another individual may need to make changes to their diet or lifestyle.
Still, others may need medicine to stimulate stomach emptying, reduce nausea, pain and so on. Vitamins can also be useful in some cases. Others find that acupuncture and similar therapies help to lessen symptoms. Of course, any treatment should be approved by a doctor first.
Whether you have gastroparesis or not, whether you are statistically at risk or not, it’s good to be informed. This little-known weakness of the stomach poses a very real threat to your health. Don’t be caught off guard by gastroparesis!