What is Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is poorly understood from a pathophysiological standpoint and there is little awareness of this condition in the community. There are an estimated 125,000 gastroparesis sufferers in Australia. Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying is a motility disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Normally, the muscles of the stomach ground solid food into smaller pieces and contract to move food down into the small intestine for additional digestion. The movement of muscles in the stomach is controlled by the vagus nerve. Gastroparesis may occur when the vagus nerve is damaged causing the stomach’s muscles to weaken which leads to difficulties breaking up solid food and delayed emptying of the stomach.

Professor Michael Camilleri, M.D., is a world renowned expert in gastroparesis. He is the executive dean and consultant in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In 2018, Prof. Camilleri visited WSU to provide an in-depth presentation on gastroparesis and latest developments around the world.

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Causes

The majority of patients diagnosed with gastroparesis have idiopathic gastroparesis, which means a health care provider is not able to identify the cause of the disorder with current medical tests. In some cases the symptoms begin after an acute viral infection, which may be linked to the onset of the condition.

Diabetes mellitus is the most common known cause of gastroparesis, as prolonged exposure to high levels of blood glucose can damage the vagus nerve. Similarly, damage to the vagus nerve can occur during upper gastric surgery.

Other causes can be attributed to damage to the stomach’s muscles in patients with scleroderma or by nervous system diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.  Women are more frequently diagnosed with gastroparesis. The reason for this is still remains unclear.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of gastroparesis are chronic nausea, a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount of food, and vomiting undigested food. The vomiting associated with gastroparesis usually occurs after meals. However, with severe gastroparesis, vomiting may occur without eating due simply to the accumulation of secretions in the stomach.

Other symptoms of gastroparesis include bloating, which can be aggravated by eating greasy or rich foods, large quantities of foods with fibre or drinking beverages high in fat or carbonation, dull pain in the stomach area, lack of appetite and weight loss due to symptoms.

Diagnosis

Treatment 

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