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When Diabetes Causes Stomach Problems

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Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. He will also do a physical exam and may order a blood test to check your blood sugar levels. He may also order some of these other tests:

  • Barium X-ray: You drink a liquid (barium), which coats your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and shows up on X-rays. This test is also known as an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series or a barium swallow.
  • Barium beefsteak meal: You eat a meal with barium in it, and the doctor uses an X-ray to watch how your stomach digests the meal. The rate of digestion will tell your doctor how quickly your stomach is emptying.
  • Radioisotope gastric-emptying scan: You eat food that has a radioactive substance in it called a radioisotope, and then lie under a scanner that detects the radiation. If the scan shows that more than half of the food is still in your stomach after 1.5 hours, you have gastroparesis.
  • Gastric manometry: Your doctor guides a thin tube through your mouth and into your stomach. It measures your stomach's electrical and muscular activity to find out how quickly it is digesting food.
  • Wireless motility capsule: You swallow this tiny device with a meal. It measures the pressure, temperature, and pH of different parts of your gut.
  • C13 breath testing: These tests are very accurate at measuring the speed of stomach emptying. 
  • Electrogastrography: During this test, you wear electrodes on your skin to measure electrical activity in your stomach.
  • Ultrasound: The doctor uses sound waves to show the inside of your body. 
  • Upper endoscopy: Your doctor will pass a thin tube (called an endoscope) through your esophagus to view the lining of your stomach.
  • Biopsy of the stomach or small intestine: Your doctor may need to take a small sample of tissue from your stomach or small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Although there is no cure, you can manage gastroparesis and its symptoms.

Controlling your blood sugar level helps. Ask your doctor if you should change when and how often you use insulin, and check your blood sugar levels more often.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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