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(Delayed Gastric Emptying)
by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
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.
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.
Risk Factors TOP
The main risk factor is diabetes. Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve, which may lead to gastroparesis. High blood glucose can also damage blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the vagus nerve, preventing it from working properly. Other risk factors include:
Gastroparesis may cause:
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, nutrients can be delivered to the body by going directly into the intestines or bloodstream. These methods bypass the stomach. Access to the intestines can be done with a tube that goes down the throat or through an opening in the abdominal wall. A tube in the vein can access the bloodstream.
You may be given medications to treat the symptoms and help the stomach with emptying. These medications work by stimulating the stomach muscles to contract. Examples include:
Other medications may be prescribed to reduce nausea.
To help reduce the chances of gastroparesis:
American College of Gastroenterology
American Gastroenterological Association
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Complicatoins of diabetes mellitus. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/diabetes-mellitus-and-disorders-of-carbohydrate-metabolism/complications-of-diabetes-mellitus. Updated February 2017. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Gastroparesis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113805/Gastroparesis. Updated December 21, 2015. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Gastroparesis. American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at:
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Updated December 2012. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Gastroparesis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gastroparesis. Accessed April 4, 2018.
Shakil A, Church RJ, Rao SS. Gastrointestinal complications of diabetes. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(12):1697-1702.
Last reviewed April 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 6/3/2013
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