What Is Gastroparesis?

stomach ache

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  • Gastroparesis is considered a type of chronic motility disorder since the issue lies within the abnormal movement of the stomach
  • It is a chronic and lifelong disease that can significantly affect the quality of life and well-being of sufferers

The term gastroparesis is derived from the Greek words "gaster" and "paresis," which means stomach and paralysis, respectively.1 It's a fitting term to describe this condition since gastroparesis literally paralyzes the stomach and prevents it from contracting. As a result, the food you ingest is not properly digested or transferred to the small intestine, where the rest of the digestion and absorption process is supposed to take place.2

Gastroparesis is considered a type of chronic motility disorder since the issue lies within the abnormal movement of the stomach, without any physical obstructions. It's an uncommon disease, and is usually linked to underlying health problems. However, there are cases of gastroparesis with no detectable cause — these cases are considered idiopathic gastroparesis.3

The occurrence of gastroparesis is commonly associated with the vagus nerve, which is responsible for controlling the digestive system. Once this nerve gets damaged due to an illness or injury, the patient suffers from low vagal tone, which ultimately results in poor stomach motility and other digestive problems.4

Unfortunately, the data and studies on gastroparesis are still limited. Although researchers managed to pinpoint the possible factors that may trigger this disease, they have been unable to find out the mechanisms by which these factors affect the development of gastroparesis.5

The Prevalence of Gastroparesis Is Still Unclear

There is a lack of clarity on the prevalence of gastroparesis. This is due to the fact that its symptoms are similar to that of other gastrointestinal disorders, such as dyspepsia and chronic idiopathic nausea.6 Even after undergoing diagnostic exams, a person with gastroparesis may still be misdiagnosed if the physician interprets the test results as another form of digestive disorder.7

Although the exact numbers are still unclear, this disease is estimated to affect approximately 5 million people in the U.S. Statistics also suggest that this condition is more prevalent in women than men, with around 80 percent of the recorded idiopathic gastroparesis cases being women. However, the reason behind this is still unknown.8

Moreover, the mean age of onset for this disease is 34 years old, but it's possible to occur at any age. Research also shows that 30 percent of gastroparesis cases are linked to diabetes mellitus, while 36 percent are considered idiopathic.9 The frequency of gastroparesis also continues to rise along with the increasing number of diabetics, which is not surprising since diabetes mellitus is the biggest risk factor for this disease.10

Living With Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a chronic and lifelong disease that can significantly affect the quality of life and well-being of sufferers. In fact, 1 out of 10 patients with this illness may even become disabled due to its symptoms and complications.11 Some patients are also unable to keep jobs, attend school or simply eat properly, as every meal becomes a challenge.12

When diagnosed with gastroparesis, one of the first concerns of patients is whether they can still live a normal life with this disease. Since it has no known cure, the best thing that patients can do is to take control of its symptoms.

Patients who are diagnosed with this disease are usually prescribed medications to stimulate the stomach, improve digestion and control nausea and vomiting. However, it's important to note that these medications may cause several side effects, making the body more susceptible to other diseases. Using natural remedies and adopting a diet plan that's specifically suited for gastroparesis are safe alternatives that can go a long way in controlling the symptoms of this disease.13

However, if medications and diet changes do not work, gastroparesis patients may need to undergo surgical treatment in order to manage this condition. These surgical treatments involve the use of a feeding tube or gastric pacemaker, which may limit a person's ability to perform certain physical activities or put the body at risk of infections.14

Gastroparesis may also affect patients psychologically, causing anxiety, depression and low energy. These psychological effects may worsen the symptoms of this disease, so it's important for patients to talk to a psychologist and ask the support of family and friends.15

MORE ABOUT GASTROPARESIS

Gastroparesis: Introduction

What Is Gastroparesis?

Diabetic Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis Symptoms

Gastroparesis Causes

Gastroparesis Treatment

Gastroparesis Prevention

Gastroparesis Diet

Gastroparesis FAQ

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