Robust Resources Now Available For Diabetic Gastroparesis Patients

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By Mary Green

Although it is among the more dreadful complications resulting from diabetes, very few people beyond those who suffer from gastroparesis are familiar with the condition.

A chronic disorder in which food moves through the digestive tract much slower than normal, gastroparesis occurs because the muscles that grind food into smaller pieces and move it through the stomach into the small intestine don’t work properly due to nerve damage. In some individuals, the stomach may not empty completely between meals. Also, undigested food can form solid masses called bezoars that can cause obstructions.

The effects of gastroparesis can be grueling and unpredictable on a day-to-day basis. They include bloating, acid reflux, abdominal pain, chronic nausea and vomiting, and a feeling of fullness after eating only a few bites of food. Gastroparesis can also cause erratic blood glucose (sugar) levels, nutritional deficiencies and can lead to dehydration. In the most severe cases, patients require some form of feeding tube to ensure adequate nutrition.

Some estimates suggest the prevalence of gastroparesis in people with type 1 diabetes ranges from 27 to 58 percent and 30 percent in those with type 2 diabetes, although definitive statistics are lacking. In the majority of insulin-dependent diabetics, gastroparesis is often overlooked and underdiagnosed, especially in its early stages.

While medication and dietary changes can provide some relief, there is no known cure for diabetic gastroparesis.

Consequently, those who are afflicted must adopt substantial lifestyle modifications to manage their symptoms and deal with the physical/mental/emotional fallout that is part and parcel of living with the condition.

Fortunately for those diagnosed with the disorder, a Los Angeles-based company is now offering much-needed support via a new website and app.

Launched in April 2018, the Diabetic Gastroparesis Xplained website (dgxplained.com) and downloadable app (available for free on iTunes and Google Play) explain diabetes gastroparesis in an engaging, easy-to-understand, animated storytelling format. Created by former developers of companies such as Marvel, Netflix and Nickelodeon and based on a real-life patient’s experiences, the site and accompanying app explain the condition, its symptoms and treatment options and feature a section entitled MY DG, which includes a symptom tracking diary and notes section optimized for sharing.

Representatives of the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) collaborated on the site, with content reviewed by an assembly of experts in the field to ensure clinical accuracy.

The website and app resources are complemented by a Diabetic Gastroparesis Xplained private Facebook support group, accessed by sign-up on the dgxplained.com site, in which participants can ask questions, get advice, share coping tips and tricks, and chat with others who have the same diagnosis.

The initiative is an outgrowth of Medicine X (https://www.medicinex.com/), the brainchild of Australian physician Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair. Recognizing that far too many patients were confused and anxious about their diagnosis and were in need of information and resources that everyday people could understand, she launched the initiative in 2014. Since then, Medicine X has created stories highlighting 19 different medical conditions, with several more in the pipeline.

“One of our biggest mantras is ‘by doctors for patients,’” says Erin Broughton, Medicine X U.S. Operations and Project Manager. “So many people have symptoms, but often aren’t offered information about the side effects, complications, or what to expect. We want patients to fully understand their condition and feel empowered and knowledgeable enough to go to their doctors with their concerns and questions.”