Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty its contents. It often occurs in people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Gastroparesis happens when nerves to the stomach are damaged or stop working. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the digestive tract. If the vagus nerve is damaged, the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally, and the movement of food is slowed or stopped.
Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve if blood glucose levels remain high over a long period of time. High blood glucose causes chemical changes in nerves and damages the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.
Signs and symptoms of gastroparesis are:
- Vomiting of undigested food
- An early feeling of fullness when eating
- Weight loss
- Abdominal bloating
- Erratic blood glucose levels
- Lack of appetite
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Spasms of the stomach wall
These symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the person.
Gastroparesis is diagnosed first by ruling out an obstruction of the outlet of the stomach during an upper endoscopy (EGD) . If no obstruction is noted, one of two tests can be used to diagnose gastroparesis:
- Nuclear Gastric Emptying Scan
Gastroparesis can often be very difficult to treat. Prokinetic agents (drugs that make the gut move) will be prescribed.