Gastroparesis

(Delayed Gastric Emptying)

Definition

Gastroparesis is a disorder that affects the digestive system. During normal digestion, the stomach breaks down food and then contracts to push food down to the small intestine. With gastroparesis, there is delayed emptying of the stomach. Food either moves slowly through the digestive tract or does not move at all. This can pose problems since the food can harden causing blockage, nausea, and vomiting. Bacteria can also start to grow. Gastroparesis is a potentially serious condition. It requires care from your doctor.
The Stomach and Intestines
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Causes

Movement of food in the digestive system is controlled by the vagus nerve. Gastroparesis occurs when this nerve is damaged and the muscles of the stomach do not work properly.

Risk Factors

The main risk factor is diabetes. Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve, which may lead to gastroparesis. High blood sugar can also damage blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the vagus nerve, preventing it from working properly. Other risk factors include:
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Surgery that involves the stomach or vagus nerve
  • Taking certain medications, such as anticholinergics or narcotics
  • Infection from a virus
  • Diseases affecting the nerves, muscles, or hormones
  • Diseases affecting metabolism (body’s ability to make and use energy)
  • Chronic disease
  • Anorexia or bulimia
  • Radiation or chemotherapy
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol use

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