Ever had a full, bloated feeling? This symptom may not sound unusual, but it’s just one of the key indicators for people suffering from gastroparesis.
While only about 200,000 people nationwide are diagnosed with the disease, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders says nearly five million Americans may be living with this illness undiagnosed; that’s why August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month.
Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal movement of muscles in the stomach, which contract and propel food through your digestive tract. In people with gastroparesis, motility is slowed down or doesn’t work at all, preventing the stomach from emptying properly.
“If you have these symptoms and we rule out infection, we may proceed with an endoscopy,” explains Dr. M.H. Razavi, a gastroenterologist with Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. “If you haven’t eaten for eight hours, your stomach should be completely empty, but if you do have residual food left in the stomach, that’s highly suggestive of gastroparesis.”
According to Dr. Razavi, another way of diagnosing gastroparesis, if you do an endoscopy and everything looks normal, is to perform a gastric emptying scan: “This procedure uses nuclear medicine to show how long it takes for food to pass through the stomach.”
Dr. Razavi says the main treatment for gastroparesis is diet modification, such as avoiding fibrous fruits and vegetables, eating smaller meals and avoiding carbonated drinks, alcohol, and smoking. In terms of medication, he notes that there aren’t any long-term, FDA-approved prescriptions.
If you’re dealing with similar symptoms or need the expertise of a gastroenterologist, call 1-800-Sentara or visit Sentara.com.