Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis

Illustration of the anatomy of the digestive system, adult
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What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a stomach disorder in which the stomach takes too long in emptying its contents. If food remains in the stomach for too long, it can cause problems such as bacterial overgrowth from the fermentation of the food. The food can also harden into solid masses, called bezoars, that may cause nausea, vomiting, and, sometimes, obstruction in the stomach. This can be dangerous if they block the passage of food into the small intestine.

What causes gastroparesis?

Most often, this condition is a complication of type 1 diabetes. It can also occur in persons with type 2 diabetes, although not as frequently. Gastroparesis is caused when the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of food through the digestive tract, is damaged or stops working. When this happens, the movement of food is slowed down or stopped.

The vagus nerve becomes damaged in persons with diabetes when blood glucose (sugar) levels remain high over a long period of time.

Other causes of gastroparesis include the following:

What are the symptoms of gastroparesis?

The following are the most common symptoms of gastroparesis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of gastroparesis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is gastroparesis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for gastroparesis may include the following:

Sometimes, in an effort to rule out other digestive conditions, an endoscopy and ultrasound may be performed.

For patients with diabetes

Gastroparesis means food is being absorbed more slowly and at unpredictable times. Therefore, persons with diabetes should take insulin more often, take insulin after eating instead of before, and check blood glucose levels frequently after eating, administering insulin when necessary.

Treatment for gastroparesis

Specific treatment for gastroparesis will be determined by your doctor based on:

Gastroparesis is usually a chronic condition, so treatment does not cure it, but rather helps the patient manage the condition. In gastroparesis related to diabetes, the primary goal is to regain control of the blood glucose levels.

Treatment may include:

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