According to a story from metro.co.uk, many rare diseases and chronic conditions do not necessarily make a person look sick a lot of the time. This can make it harder for the unaffected to understand the impacts that these diseases can have. 29 year old Almara Abgarian, who lives in London, is once such patient with an ‘invisible’ illness. She has gastroparesis, a disease that can partially paralyze the stomach.
Gastroparesis is a medical condition in which the stomach becomes partially paralyzed. This causes food to remain in the stomach for an abnormally long time; in fact, food may stop passing through the digestive tract entirely. There are a number of potential causes of gastroparesis, such as autonomic neuropathy, abdominal surgery, cigarette smoking, prior infection, and hypochlorhydria. The nerve responsible for normal movement of food from the stomach is called the vagus nerve, and any damage to it can cause gastroparesis. The condition often appears alongside other diseases, such as scleroderma, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and mitochondrial disease. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness after eating very little food, vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, night sweats, muscle weakness, weight loss, palpitations, stomach spasms, and heartburn. Treatment may include several different medications, changes in diet, or procedures such as gastric electrical stimulation or sleeve gastrectomy. To learn more about gastroparesis, click here.
While Almara doesn’t necessarily look sick, the condition can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and vomiting. When these symptoms occur, many people don’t understand that it is the result gastroparesis. Sometimes people think that she is dealing with a hangover when she rushes to the restroom to vomit. Many people are also genuinely curious about the illness as most of them haven’t heard of it.
Like many rare disease patients, Almara experienced a delayed, drawn out, and incredibly frustrating diagnostic process. There are only two specialists in all of London that understand the condition well; Almara is currently on a waiting list for a visit with one. The disease has also made the very task of eating more stressful and she has to focus on foods that she thinks will be less likely to affect her.
Almara says that there are some good days when she hardly notices it and has slowly learned to live with her gastroparesis without letting it define her life entirely.