What is Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a stomach related disease in which the stomach muscles of the patients gets affected which results in poor churning and grinding of food. The digestion is not proper and the food doesn’t get grinded to the appropriate small particles, required to move to the small intestine. This abnormality mainly occurs due to the damage of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is essentially responsible for the functionality of the digestive system.

The food in the stomach usually gets digested with rhythmic contractions of the stomach muscles. Then the collective action of the acids and muscles make it possible to churn it to the size which can then pass to the intestines. In this disease, the emptying of solid food is very slow thus causing major issues.

This condition is subdivided into three main types:

  1. Diabetic gastroparesis
  2. Idiopathic gastroparesis
  3. Post surgery gastroparesis

Known causes

The main causes of this abnormality are unknown; however, these are the few basic causes that usually cause gastroparesis:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes is one of the causes of gastroparesis.
  • Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease (tremors) can also be targeted.
  • Imbalance of various essential minerals of the human body like calcium, potassium, magnesium etc can also be a cause of this disorder.
  • People experiencing multiple sclerosis are also prone to this disease.
  • Serious injuries to the stomach and especially to the vagus nerve can be a cause for this abnormality.
  • Medications like various antidepressants and drugs can cause gastroparesis.
  • Two conditions namely, Scleroderma which is a disease of connective tissues and Amyloidosis which is the deposition of protein fiber in the organs and tissues can also cause this disease. Scleroderma causes damage to the muscles of the stomach.
  • Gastroparesis is also caused by pancreatitis which is the inflammation of pancreas. Thus reflexes of the nervous system play a role in triggering this condition with the abnormal functioning of the nervous signals.
  • Sometimes, it has also been observed that gastroparesis does not occur due to the acute weak functioning of the stomach muscles. It can also be caused due to the malfunctioning of the associated organs like intestines, colon or esophagus.



Following are the symptoms of gastroparesis:

  • One of the most observed symptoms of this disorder is nausea and vomiting of the food that is left undigested. Vomiting can also be caused without any food intake, simply because of the stomach fluids. The vomiting is intensely difficult as it contains visible pieces of food due to undigested food.
  • The patients also suffer from severe abdominal pains when they are enduring this disease. The cause of the pain however, remains unclear still.
  • Some people also complain of feeling full too quickly when they have in actual, eaten nothing much.
  • The sufferers also endure bloating which can be with abdominal distension or without it.
  • In some cases, it has been seen that people lose weight very quickly and this is usually caused due to early satiety.
  • GERD or also known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is the heartburn in easy words, is not very common though, but in a few cases, it is also a symptom of gastroparesis.
  • Many people who suffer from this disorder also have issues in controlling blood sugar levels.

Complications of the disease

These are some of the frequently occurring complications in this disease:

  • The food stays within the stomach for a long time which can become fermented. This causes the growth of bacteria.
  • Sometimes, the food that keeps sitting in the stomach turns into a hardened bezoar. This material causes obstruction in the stomach and cannot be passed onto the intestine.
  • Due to the increase in the blood sugar level, people suffering from diabetes as well as gastroparesis have issues in controlling the sugar level. When the food passes into the intestine, the sugar cannot be regulated.



For thorough diagnosis of the disease, doctors have a detailed checkup. They keep a check on the symptoms and take notice of the patient’s complete medical history. The patients undergo a series of blood tests and physical examination of the body. Their blood sugar is checked and on the basis of this information, the diagnosis is presented. Following are the few ways in which gastroparesis is diagnosed:

  • Barium X-Rays: Barium is a liquid that the patients drinks before the X-Ray. It helps in the indication of the internal passage like the esophagus and it shows the areas where the problem lies. This X-Ray is useful in observing stomach, small intestine and the esophagus.
  • Gastric Manometry: This is a test in which a thin tube is inserted through the mouth of the patient into the stomach. It helps in measuring the muscular and electrical activity of the stomach. It helps in calculating the rate of digestion of the patient.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasounds are the best imaging technique which gives real tie images of the body through sound waves. It can be used for thorough investigation of the condition and to eliminate the other possibilities.
  • Endoscopy: Endoscopy is yet another diagnosis technique for gastroparesis. It also involves the insertion of a thin tube but into the esophagus. This can assist in observing the stomach lining.



One thing to remember about gastroparesis is that it is a chronic condition which will last for the whole life, unfortunately. There are different medications for this disease however, there is not absolute cure. The medications can be helpful in controlling gastroparesis to some extent.

Reglan: This medicine is taken before the meal. It causes the contraction of the stomach muscles which will move the food onward the small intestine. It also helps in reducing the chances of vomiting or nausea. The side effects are anxiety, diarrhea, drowsiness and sometimes severe neurological disorders.

Erythromycin: It is an antibiotic which targets the stomach contraction. It assists in moving of the food as well. the side effects include the formation of bacteria due to the exposure of antibiotic and diarrhea.

Antiemetics: This medicine is essentially used to control nausea.


Read Lois’ story about life with Gastroparesis.

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