What is Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a condition in which food takes longer than normal to empty from the stomach. The condition is usually long-lasting (chronic).

What are the causes?

This condition may be caused by:

  • An endocrine disorder, such as hypothyroidism or diabetes. Diabetes is the most common cause of this condition.
  • A nervous system disease, such as Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis.
  • Cancer, infection, or surgery of the stomach or vagus nerve.
  • A connective tissue disorder, such as scleroderma.
  • Certain medicines.

In most cases, the cause is not known.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in:

  • People with certain disorders, including endocrine disorders, eating disorders, amyloidosis, and scleroderma.
  • People with certain diseases, including Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis.
  • People with cancer or infection of the stomach or vagus nerve.
  • People who have had surgery on the stomach or vagus nerve.
  • People who take certain medicines.
  • Women.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • An early feeling of fullness when eating.
  • Nausea.
  • Weight loss.
  • Vomiting.
  • Heartburn.
  • Abdominal bloating.
  • Inconsistent blood glucose levels.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Acid from the stomach coming up into the esophagus (gastroesophageal reflux).
  • Spasms of the stomach.

Symptoms may come and go.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with tests, such as:

  • Tests that check how long it takes food to move through the stomach and intestines. These tests include:
    • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. In this test, X-rays of the intestines are taken after you drink a liquid. The liquid makes the intestines show up better on the X-rays.
    • Gastric emptying scintigraphy. In this test, scans are taken after you eat food that contains a small amount of radioactive material.
    • Wireless capsule GI monitoring system. This test involves swallowing a capsule that records information about movement through the stomach.
  • Gastric manometry. This test measures electrical and muscular activity in the stomach. It is done with a thin tube that is passed down the throat and into the stomach.
  • Endoscopy. This test checks for abnormalities in the lining of the stomach. It is done with a long, thin tube that is passed down the throat and into the stomach.
  • An ultrasound. This test can help rule out gallbladder disease or pancreatitis as a cause of your symptoms. It uses sound waves to take pictures of the inside of your body.

How is this treated?

There is no cure for gastroparesis. This condition may be managed with:

  • Treatment of the underlying condition causing the gastroparesis.
  • Lifestyle changes, including exercise and dietary changes. Dietary changes can include:
    • Changes in what and when you eat.
    • Eating smaller meals more often.
    • Eating low-fat foods.
    • Eating low-fiber forms of high-fiber foods, such as cooked vegetables instead of raw vegetables.
    • Having liquid foods in place of solid foods. Liquid foods are easier to digest.
  • Medicines. These may be given to control nausea and vomiting and to stimulate stomach muscles.
  • Getting food through a feeding tube. This may be done in severe cases.
  • A gastric neurostimulator. This is a device that is inserted into the body with surgery. It helps improve stomach emptying and control nausea and vomiting.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions about exercise and diet.
  • Take medicines only as directed by your health care provider.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
  • You have new symptoms.

Get help right away if:

  • You have severe abdominal pain that does not improve with treatment.
  • You have nausea that does not go away.
  • You cannot keep fluids down.

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