By Melissa Adams VanHouten, Gastroparesis Advocate
August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, and we need your help in raising awareness of this little-known illness.
Gastroparesis, or “paralysis of the stomach,” is a digestive motility disorder in which food passes from the stomach to the intestines at a delayed rate. It is marked by symptoms such as early satiety, nausea, vomiting, stomach/abdominal pain, bloating/distension, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, or a more severe form of acid reflux).
Those in our community frequently face debilitating and sometimes life-threatening complications such as digestive tract blockages, esophageal damage, extreme weight loss/fluctuations, erratic blood sugars, infections, chronic fatigue, dehydration, and malnutrition.
Diabetes, which accounts for about one-third of the cases, is the most common known cause of gastroparesis. Other recognized causes include neurologic and connective tissue disorders, surgical damage, and direct injury to the vagus nerve. Most cases, however, are labeled “idiopathic,” meaning there is no known or identifiable cause.
Though patients are often misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed, making assessment difficult, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates more than 5 million people live with gastroparesis. Despite our numbers, we are considered an “orphan” disease due to the lack of resources, support, and attention we garner.
Gastroparesis is largely invisible to the public and often misunderstood by healthcare professionals and others who impact our care. Research funding is limited, and consequently, there are no consistently safe, reliable, and effective treatments, and there is no cure.
You can assist us by asking your congressional representatives to cosponsor H.R.3396, the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2019: www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3396. This bipartisan, budget-neutral bill would expand research and promote education and awareness of gastroparesis and other functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders that touch countless lives.
Please support us in our quest for better care and increased understanding of this life-altering illness.
For further information, please visit the Gastroparesis: Fighting for Change website at www.curegp.org or contact the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) at www.iffgd.org or the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders (AGMD) at www.agmdhope.org.