Byetta and Paralyzed Stomach

Patient Expert

When you take Byetta, your stomach empties slower. That's a good thing, because it helps you lose weight and reduce your blood glucose levels.

A common complication of diabetes called gastroparesis- literally paralyzed stomach - also causes food to remain in the stomach. That's not a good thing, in part because it can make controlling your blood glucose levels difficult.

High blood glucose levels can lead to nerve damage causing gastroparesis. And high blood glucose levels make people with type 2 diabetes excellent candidates for Byetta.

But if you have gastroparesis and take Byetta, you are supposed to tell your doctor. This assumes, of course, that you know you have gastroparesis. This makes me wonder if some of the people who don't do well on Byetta, particularly those who get a lot of nausea, have undiagnosed gastroparesis.

For a condition that few people have ever heard about, gastroparesis is awfully common. Up to 5 million Americans have it. "It is estimated that approximately 25% of diabetic patients have gastroparesis, although many patients with gastroparesis remain undiagnosed," according to the State of Wyoming's
Clinical Practice Recommendations for Diabetes Mellitus.

Gastroparesis "frequently occurs in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes," says the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion "Symptoms of gastroparesis include heartburn, nausea, vomiting of undigested food, an early feeling of fullness when eating, weight loss, abdominal bloating, erratic blood glucose levels, lack of appetite, gastroesophageal reflux, and spasms of the stomach wall."

Not surprisingly, fullness, weight loss, and lack of appetite are the most common side effects of Byetta. It is for these side effects that many people - myself included - take Byetta.

With or without Byetta, you can control gastroparesis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. If you have mild symptoms - indigestion, belching, nausea, or vomiting - it can help to eat small and frequent meals. You need to avoid fats and eat less fiber.
When symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic called erythromycin to speed digestion, a drug commonly used to treat nausea and vomiting called metoclopramide to speed digestion and help relieve nausea, or other drugs to help regulate digestion or reduce stomach acid secretion.

If you have gastroparesis and haven't responded to these standard treatments, you also have the option of getting a gastric electrical stimulator. This device is the size of a cardiac pacemaker, and a surgeon implants it under the skin of the abdominal wall. Medtronic Inc. sells the device as Enterra Therapy.

Isn't it strange that Byetta's slow stomach emptying works so much better for us than the way gastroparesis does it.

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