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What is Diabetic Gastroparesis? And Why Should I Care About It?

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Gastroparesis is a digestive disorder that affects people with diabetes (both type I and type II) where the stomach delays emptying its contents.

It occurs when the vagus nerve (the nerve that controls movement of food through the digestive tract) is damaged or stops working. When this happens the movement of food may be slowed or stopped.

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Signs and symptoms of gastroparesis

1. Nausea
2. Heartburn
3. Vomiting (of undigested foods)
4. Weight loss
5. Wild swings in blood glucose levels
6. A feeling of bloating in the abdominal area
7. When eating - feeling full early
8. No appetite
9. Reflux

These signs / symptoms vary in severity from mild to severe.

Causes of gastroparesis:

1. Some viruses
2. Eating disorders - anorexia nervosa
3. Surgery in the abdominal area around the stomach
4. Some medications (narcotics are a good example)
5. Parkinson's disease
6. Hypothyroidism
7. Amyloidosis
8. Scleroderma

Numerous complications

This disorder can make the ability to control blood sugar in diabetes much more difficult. This delaying of food in the gastrointestinal tract causes blood glucose levels to rise.

If the food stays too long to be absorbed, it can ferment can overgrowth of bacteria.

Another complication is that the food can harden in the stomach and cause a solid mass that is similar to hairballs in cats. This is called a bezoar and may cause nausea and vomiting and if it becomes serious enough can even obstruct the stomach from emptying completely.

Weight loss can occur as the body's ability to digest nutrients is slowed or stopped. Also malabsorption of the nutrients can occur.

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