Diabetic gastroparesis is the result of damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of food through the digestive system. In a person with this condition, the stomach takes too long to empty its contents. Symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting undigested food, and weight loss. In most cases, treatment does not cure the problem -- it is usually a chronic condition.
Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty its contents. It often occurs in people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Besides diabetes, gastroparesis can also be caused by:
- Postviral syndromes
- Anorexia nervosa
- Surgery on the stomach or vagus nerve
- Medications, particularly anticholinergics and narcotics (these drugs slow contractions in the intestine)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (rarely)
- Smooth muscle disorders such as amyloidosis and scleroderma
- Nervous system diseases, including abdominal migraine and Parkinson's disease
- Metabolic disorders, including hypothyroidism.
Gastroparesis occurs when nerves to the stomach are damaged or stop working. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the digestive tract. If the vagus nerve is damaged, the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally, and the movement of food is slowed or stopped.
Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve if blood glucose levels remain high over a long period of time. High blood glucose causes chemical changes in nerves and damages the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.
Signs and symptoms of diabetic gastroparesis include:
- Vomiting of undigested food
- An early feeling of fullness when eating
- Weight loss
- Abdominal bloating
- Erratic blood glucose levels
- Lack of appetite
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Spasms of the stomach wall.
These symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the person.