Gastroparesis is a condition that reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents. It does not involve a blockage (obstruction).
Gastroparesis diabeticorum; Delayed gastric emptying; Diabetes - gastroparesis; Diabetic neuropathy - gastroparesis
The exact cause of gastroparesis is unknown. It may be caused by a disruption of nerve signals to the stomach. The condition is a common complication of diabetes. It can also follow some surgeries.
Risk factors for gastroparesis include:
- Gastrectomy (surgery to remove part of the stomach)
- Systemic sclerosis
- Use of medicine that blocks certain nerve signals (anticholinergic medicine)
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal distention
- Hypoglycemia (in people with diabetes)
- Premature abdominal fullness after meals
- Weight loss without trying
- Abdominal pain
Exams and Tests
Tests you may need include:
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
- Gastric emptying study (using isotope labeling)
- Upper GI series
People with diabetes should always control their blood sugar levels. Better control of blood sugar level may improve symptoms of gastroparesis. Eating small and more frequent meals and soft foods may also help relieve some symptoms.
Medicines that may help include:
- Cholinergic drugs, which act on acetylcholine nerve receptors
- Metoclopramide, a medicine that helps empty the stomach
- Serotonin antagonist 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)
Many treatments seem to provide only temporary benefit.
Ongoing nausea and vomiting may cause:
- Electrolyte imbalances
People with diabetes may have serious complications from poor blood sugar control.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Changes in your diet may help control symptoms. Call your health care provider if symptoms continue or if you have new symptoms.
Bircher G, Woodrow G. Gastroenterology and nutrition in chronic kidney disease. In: Feehally J, Floege J, Tonelli M, Johnson RJ, eds. Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 86.
Koch KL. Gastric neuromuscular function and neuromuscular disorders. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 49.
- Last reviewed on 10/24/2018
- Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is the first of its kind, requiring compliance with 53 standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audit. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial process. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics (www.hiethics.com) and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.