Gastroparesis is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach does not function normally.
Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But in gastroparesis, your stomach’s motility works poorly or not at all. This prevents your stomach from emptying properly. Gastroparesis can interfere with normal digestion, cause nausea and vomiting, and cause problems with blood sugar levels and nutrition.
The cause of gastroparesis is usually unknown. When this is the case, it’s called idiopathic gastroparesis (IG). When people who have diabetes develop gastroparesis, it’s called diabetic gastroparesis (DG). Some people develop gastroparesis after surgery.
There is no cure for gastroparesis, but changes to your diet, along with medication, can offer some relief.
What Are the Symptoms of Gastroparesis?
There are many symptoms of gastroparesis, including:
- Heartburn or GERD
- Vomiting undigested food
- Feeling full quickly when eating
- Abdominal bloating
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Poor blood sugar control
What Are the Complications of Gastroparesis?
Some of the complications of gastroparesis include:
- Food that stays in the stomach too long can ferment, which can lead to the growth of bacteria.
- Food in the stomach can harden into a solid collection, called a bezoar. Bezoars can cause obstructions in the stomach that keep food from passing into the small intestine.
- People who have both diabetes and gastroparesis may have more difficulty because blood sugar levels rise when food finally leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine, making blood sugar control more of a challenge.
What causes gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis can be caused either by diseases of the stomach’s muscles or the nerves that control the muscles, though often no specific cause is identified. The most common disease causing gastroparesis is diabetes mellitus, which damages the nerves controlling the stomach muscles.
Gastroparesis also can result from damage to the vagus nerve, the nerve that controls the stomach’s muscles, that occurs during surgery on the esophagus and stomach.Scleroderma is an example of a disease in which gastroparesis is due to damage to the stomach’s muscles. Occasionally, gastroparesis is caused by reflexes within the nervous system, for example, when the pancreas is inflamed (pancreatitis). In such cases, neither the nerves nor the muscles of the stomach are diseased, but messages are sent through nerves from the pancreas to the stomach which prevents the muscles from working normally.
How is it Treated?
The most important treatment goal for diabetes-related gastroparesis is to manage your blood glucose levels as well as possible. Treatments include insulin, oral medications, changes in what and when you eat, and, in severe cases, feeding tubes and intravenous feeding.