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Symptoms of gastroparesis

The symptoms associated with gastroparesis range in severity, but can be very debilitating. Common symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, bloating, early satiety, postprandial fullness, and abdominal pain. In extreme cases, the inability to digest foods and liquids properly can also lead to malnutrition, weight loss, and dehydration.

These symptoms can mimic a number of other health conditions (e.g., functional dyspepsia), and a medical history, physical examination and testing will help to discern if gastroparesis is the most likely explanation for the patient’s symptoms. Imaging tests and physiological measurements are used to determine the functioning of the stomach and the rate of gastric emptying. Some patients have severely delayed emptying but little in the way of symptoms, whereas other patients may have severe symptoms with only minor delays in emptying. In other words the severity of symptoms and the rate of emptying may not be closely correlated, which is why the abnormalities of sensation (which cannot be as easily measured) are likely to be important.

Further details about specific gastroparesis symptoms

Nausea: One of the main symptoms of gastroparesis is a feeling of nausea that may be accompanied by vomiting. Whilst dietary modification and prescribed medications can be helpful in addressing this symptom, there are also some other approaches that can lessen nausea. Using ginger to make a tea, as an ingredient in recipes, or taking ginger capsules, is known to ease nausea and speed up gastric emptying in some people. There is also evidence that stimulation of acupoints PC-6 and ST-36 can help relieve nausea and improve gastric emptying.

Bloating: Abdominal bloating is commonly associated with gastroparesis. Dietary modification may decrease abdominal bloating and discomfort. A discussion with your doctor can guide you in the necessary direction however, a specialised dietician’s advice is usually required in more severe cases

Abdominal pain: Many people with gastroparesis experience abdominal pain and discomfort. Gastroparesis generally does not cause sharp stabbing pains, but instead pain that is vague and crampy in nature. It is commonly made worse by eating, and may disrupt sleep at night.

Pain relief in the form of applying a hot pack to the abdomen for short periods may be helpful. The frequency and severity of pain episodes may also be reduced by treating gastroparesis with dietary modification, as well as natural, over the counter, and prescribed medications. Opiate based medications (eg morphine) are best avoided as they can lead to an increase in symptoms in the long term and are highly addictive.

Pain in gastroparesis can have a significant impact on quality of life. Learning techniques to cope with the symptoms is an effective strategy to make living with gastroparesis easier. Techniques that can be helpful in managing pain include those used by psychologists, for example cognitive behavioural therapy.

Depression and anxiety: It is common for gastroparesis sufferers to experience anxiety or depression. This may be due to the symptoms themselves, or to other issues such as family, relationships, financial stresses, or even to significant life changing events from the past.

The symptoms of gastroparesis may interfere with the normal activities of day-to-day life. This can lead to tiredness, low mood, low energy levels, and feelings of being out of control, tense, or anxious. This in itself will make the experience of living with gastroparesis more difficult and can create a vicious cycle of increasing symptoms leading to more anxiety and a further increase in symptoms, impacting on the overall condition of the person’s health and quality of life.

If any of the above feelings or events is pertinent to your care, then this should be discussed with your doctor, and if there are previously unresolved psychological issues then it would be the right time to address these as part of the treatment plan. Treating these issues can improve the ability of the mind and body to cope with gastroparesis. If your doctor feels that depression and/or anxiety is contributing to your symptoms, your doctor may suggest medication. It can often take some time to work out the right medication and dosage before it has a favourable outcome.  Alternatively, a referral to a psychologist for further assessment and treatment may be appropriate.




MORE LINKS

If you are interested in other gastrointestinal-focused information and intervention websites developed and hosted at
Swinburne University of Technology,
please go to:

IBSclinic.org.au for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBDclinic.org.au for individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

DISCLAIMER

This website and its content is not intended or recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.

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