Gastroparesis is a disorder that affects the digestive system. During normal digestion, the stomach breaks down food and then contracts to push food down to the small intestine. With gastroparesis, there is delayed emptying of the stomach. Food either moves slowly through the digestive tract or does not move at all. This can pose problems since the food can harden causing blockage, nausea, and vomiting. Bacteria can also start to grow. Gastroparesis is a potentially serious condition. It requires care from your doctor.
The Stomach and Intestines
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Movement of food in the digestive system is controlled by the vagus nerve. Gastroparesis occurs when this nerve is damaged and the muscles of the stomach do not work properly.
The main risk factor is diabetes. Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve, which may lead to gastroparesis. High blood sugar can also damage blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the vagus nerve, preventing it from working properly. Other risk factors include:
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to gastroparesis. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
The following may worsen symptoms:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. The doctor may do:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Managing what you eat can help control gastroparesis. You may work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to create a meal plan that is right for you. This may include:
In severe cases, you may need to have nutrients delivered directly to your intestines (skipping the stomach) or directly to your bloodstream. Feeding tubes may be inserted down your throat or through your abdomen and into your intestines to help deliver food. Nutrients may also be given through a thin tube that is placed in one of your veins.
You may be given medications that treat your symptoms and help your stomach empty. These medications work by stimulating the stomach muscles to contract. Examples include:
Other medications may be prescribed to reduce nausea.
In severe cases, your doctor may consider surgery. This may include removing part of the stomach.
To help reduce your chance gastroparesis:
Gastro—American Gastroenterological Association
The American College of Gastroenterology
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Gastroparesis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 29, 2010. Accessed April 4, 2011.
Gastroparesis. The American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://patients.gi.org/topics/gastroparesis. Accessed April 4, 2011.
Gastroparesis. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/gastroparesis/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated July 2007. Accessed April 4, 2011.
Shakil A, Church RJ, et al. Gastrointestinal complications of diabetes. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(12):1697-1702.
Soykan I, Sivri B, et al. Demography, clinical characteristics, psychological and abuse profiles, treatment, and long-term follow-up of patients with gastroparesis. Dig Dis Sci. 1998;43(11):2398-2404.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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