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Gastroparesis

Definition

Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the ability of the stomach to empty its contents, but there is no blockage (obstruction).

Alternative Names

Gastroparesis diabeticorum; Delayed gastric emptying

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of gastroparesis is unknown, but it may be caused by a disruption of nerve signals to the intestine. The condition is a common complication of diabetes and can be a complication of some surgeries.

Risk factors for gastroparesis include:

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Treatment

People with diabetes should always control their blood sugar levels. Better control of blood sugar levels may improve symptoms of gastroparesis. Eating small meals and soft (well-cooked) foods may also help relieve some symptoms.

Medications include:

  • Cholinergic drugs, which act on acetylcholine nerve receptors
  • Metoclopramide, a medicine that helps empty the stomach
  • Serotonergic drugs, which act on serotonin receptors

Other treatments may include:

  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injected into the outlet of the stomach (pylorus)
  • Surgical procedure that creates an opening between the stomach and small intestine to allow food to move through the digestive tract more easily (gastroenterostomy)

Expectations (prognosis)

Many treatments seem to provide only temporary benefit.

Complications

Persistent nausea and vomiting may cause:

People with diabetes may have serious complications from poor blood sugar control.

Calling your health care provider

Apply home treatment such as managing your diet. Call your health care provider if symptoms continue or if you have new symptoms.


Review Date: 2/20/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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