Anticipate, treat GI issues in scleroderma
LAS VEGAS – Pay attention to GI symptoms in your scleroderma patients. Gut involvement in scleroderma, a result of vasculopathy and fibrosis affecting the GI tract, is common and can be debilitating, said Daniel Furst, MD.
Speaking at the annual Perspectives in Rheumatologic Diseases presented by the Global Academy for Medical Education, Dr. Furst said that the progression often begins at the mouth and esophagus, and progresses through the digestive system, eventually reaching the rectum and anus.
“You think about motility issues early on, in the esophagus,” and early oral symptoms can include mouth dryness, said Dr. Furst, who is associated with the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Florence (Italy).
As scleroderma begins to affect the midgut, Dr. Furst said that the secondary results of the decrease in motility are symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and early satiety.
“When you have a decrease in motility, then the normal ... housekeeping waves of the midgut and the colon are decreased,” he said. Bacteria from the colon can then invade the small bowel, causing overgrowth of the midgut by species not normally seen there. Not only gas, but also malnutrition can eventually result, he said.
When scleroderma affects the lower gut, patients can have bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, and finally, incontinence of the bowel, a condition with often devastating psychosocial consequences.
The choice of promotility agents depends on the area affected; erythromycin and metoclopramide help in the upper GI tract, while tegaserod can be helpful in the lower gut.
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