My road to diagnosis | Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2021
It's August, which means that it's gastroparesis awareness month!
I'll be honest, I was hoping to write quite a few posts, about gastroparesis, this month to help spread awareness. My stomach had some other ideas, as if it knew this month was dedicated to its inability to move food through at a normal rate. So here I am, on the last day of the month, writing my second post about the condition that has changed my life.
This time last year, I had never even heard of the word 'gastroparesis', yet I had been living with it for a while. Looking back, I can see the signs of gastroparesis (especially major flare ups) even during my teen years. I remember having to run to the bathroom during classes in high school to be sick and not understanding why I would feel so sick after eating certain foods or so little of them. I used to push all my symptoms aside and, to be honest, I thought I was making a mountain out of a mole hill. My family has a history of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and, comparatively, I felt that my symptoms were tiny... The imposter syndrome was real.
I have told the general story of what diagnosing gastroparesis looked like for me here, but thought I would touch on what tests we did in today's post. I hope, if you are looking for answers, today's blog post can help you understand what you might be able to expect. Please try to remember that everyone's health journey is different, what I have been through may be very different to what you or Bob from down the street go through. But all of us a worthy of receiving help and finding answers. So let's jump in.
Blood tests... Lots of blood tests
Prep your veins boys. Like with many (if not all) illnesses, your medical team will need to monitor your blood for many things that I won't even pretend to understand. Gastroparesis obviously affects your body's ability to absorb nutrients so it is important for everyone to stay on top of everything, one way of doing this is blood tests.
Get ready to give your fluids out
Long story short, they are going to want to test your wee and poo. Enjoy.
This, my friends, is proof that we now live in the future! A smart pill is basically a tiny little robot camera in the shape of a pill that you swallow and it sends back a billion (I'm sure) photos a second to its overlord/mother ship. This means that your doctor can monitor your symptoms over an entire day. I'll be doing an in depth blog post on this genius soon so keep your eyes peeled and prepare to be amazed!
Just a gal in her Smart Pill attire
Endoscopes are similar to the smart pill but done under anaesthetic by your doctor (normally a gastroenterologist). There are two types of scopes used for GI problems, a gastroscopy (from the mouth down) and colonoscopy (from the bottom up). The prep isn't fun but they're useful diagnostic tools and honestly not as bad an experience as I had once thought. If nothing else, you get a nice nap and some free apple juice after.
Gastric Emptying Study
This is the big kahuna, the holy grail of tests for motility disorders and the way to definitively diagnose gastroparesis. I describe it in more detail in this blog post but to sum it up here: you eat a meal with a trace amount of a radioactive substance in it and then undergo a series of scans, normally over four hours. The scanner can see the tracer, and therefore the food, in your system over this period. This is compared to normal transit times and is how I was officially diagnosed with gastroparesis (or delayed gastric emptying).
The bloating was real after my gastric emptying study
I plan on doing in depth posts on the different diagnostic tests and treatment options for gastroparesis but please feel free to ask me any questions in the mean time. It is important for us to keep the conversation around rare conditions, like gastroparesis, going.
Life is tough, but so are we.