Stomach and pyloric valve
Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the regular spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But if you actually have gastroparesis, your stomach’s motility is slowed down or doesn’t work at all, stopping your stomach from emptying normally.
Certain medications, such as opioid pain relievers, some antidepressants, and high blood pressure and allergy medications, can also result to slow gastric emptying and cause similar symptoms. For people who already have gastroparesis, these medications may make their condition worse.
Gastroparesis can interfere with normal digestion, cause nausea and vomiting, and cause issues with blood sugar levels and nutrition. The cause of gastroparesis is often unknown. Sometimes it’s a complication of diabetes, and some people develop gastroparesis after surgery. Although there’s no cure for gastroparesis, changes to your diet, along with medication, can give some relief.
Signs and symptoms of gastroparesis can include:
- A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites
- Vomiting undigested food eaten a few hours earlier
- Acid reflux
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss and malnutrition
Many people with gastroparesis do not usually have any noticeable signs and symptoms.
It’s not often clear what leads to gastroparesis. But in many situations, gastroparesis is believed to be caused by damage to a nerve that controls the stomach muscles (vagus nerve).
The vagus nerve assist manage the complex processes in your digestive tract, including signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push food into the small intestine. A damaged vagus nerve can not send signals normally to your stomach muscles. This may cause food to be left over in your stomach longer, rather than move normally into your small intestine to be digested.
The vagus nerve can be damaged by diseases, such as diabetes, or by surgery to the stomach or small intestine.
Factors that can also increase your risk of gastroparesis:
- Abdominal or esophageal surgery
- Infection, usually a virus
- Certain medications that slow the rate of stomach emptying, such as narcotic pain medications
- Scleroderma (a connective tissue disease)
- Nervous system diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid)
Women are more likely to have gastroparesis than are men.
Gastroparesis can cause many complications, such as:
- Severe dehydration.Ongoing vomiting can create dehydration.
- Poor appetite can mean you don’t take in enough calories, or you may be unable to absorb enough nutrients because of vomiting.
- Undigested food that hardens and remains in your stomach.Undigested food in your stomach can harden into a solid mass called a bezoar. Bezoars can cause nausea and vomiting and may be life-threatening if they stop food from passing into your small intestine.
- Unpredictable blood sugar changes.Although gastroparesis does not cause diabetes, frequent changes in the rate and amount of food passing into the small bowel can cause erratic changes in blood sugar levels. These difference in blood sugar make diabetes worse. In turn, poor control of blood sugar levels makes gastroparesis worse.
- Decreased quality of life.An acute flare-up of symptoms can make it hard to work and keep up with other responsibilities.