Gastroparesis: Causes,Symptoms, Complications and Diagnosis

Gastroparesis refers to stomach paralysis. GP also called delayed gastric emptying in which food remains in the stomach for an abnormally long time. It is a digestive disorder in which the motility of the stomach is either abnormal or abse

Updated: June 16, 2022

Gastroparesis refers to stomach paralysis. GP also called delayed gastric emptying in which  food remains in the stomach for an abnormally long time. It is a digestive disorder in which the motility of the stomach is either abnormal or absent. In healthy people the stomach contracts to move food down into the small intestine for  further digestion and absorption of nutrients. The vagus nerve controls these contractions. Gastroparesis may occur when the vagus nerve is damaged and the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not properly function. Food then moves slowly or stops moving through the digestive tract preventing your stomach from emptying properly.


Causes of Gastroparesis:


Causes of Gastroparesis includes:

Uncontrolled Diabetes:

High levels of blood glucose may effect chemical changes in the nerves. The vagus nerve becomes damaged by prolonged high blood glucose or insufficient transport of glucose into cells resulting in gastroparesis.


Abdominal or Esophageal Surgery:

Surgery may injured  the vagus nerve causing gastroparesis.


Parkinson's Disease:

Nervous system diseases  or multiple sclerosis may be a cause of gastroparesis.


Connective Tissue Diseases :

Gastroparesis may occur due to  connective tissue diseases such as  scleroderma and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.


Hypothyroidism :

Low thyroid can cause gastroparesis.


Heavy Cigarette Smoking :

Heavy cigarette smoking is also a possible cause since smoking causes damage to the stomach lining.


Hypochlorhydria:

Gastroparesis can also be caused by chloride, sodium and/or zinc deficiency known as hypochlorhydria. These minerals are needed for the stomach to produce adequate levels of gastric acid  in order to properly empty the stomach.
Several other causes of gastroparesis are idiopathic gastroparesis (gastroparesis with no known cause), infections, eating disorders, certain cancers, radiation treatment applied over the chest or abdomen, some chemotherapy agents and  Medications such as narcotics and some antidepressants.

Symptoms of Gastroparesis:

Gastroparesis symptoms tend to worsen the week before menstruation when progesterone levels are highest. As women have an inherently slower stomach emptying time than men, females are more sufferers compared to male in gastroparesis.

Signs and symptoms of gastroparesis include:

  • Heartburn
  • Lack of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Night sweats
  • Poor blood sugar control
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Body aches (myalgia)
  • A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic nausea especially in the Morning
  • Abdominal pain
  • Palpitations
  • Spasms of the stomach wall
  • Weight loss and malnutrition


Complications of Gastroparesis:

Complications of Gastroparesis includes:

  • Fluctuations in blood glucose due to unpredictable digestion times in diabetic patient
  • Malnutrition due to Poor appetite which  mean you don't take in enough calories, or you may be unable to absorb enough nutrients due to vomiting.
  • Food that stays in the stomach too long can ferment, which can lead to the  bacterial infection.
  • Undigested food in the stomach can harden into a solid collection, called a bezoar causing intestinal obstruction . Bezoars can cause nausea and vomiting and may be life-threatening if they prevent food from passing into your small intestine.
  • Severe fatigue and weight loss due to calorie deficiency.


Diagnosis of Gastroparesis:

Gastroparesis can be diagnosed with several tests such as 

Intestinal x-rays:

In this test a contrast radiograph is used to find out any blockage such as inflammation in the small intestine which is resulting in a back up of material and could account for delayed gastric emptying.


Gastroduodenal Manometry:

In this test a thin tube is passed through your mouth and into the stomach which measures the stomach's electrical and muscular activity to determine the rate of digestion.


Upper Endoscopy:

This procedure involves passing a thin tube  called endoscope down the esophagus to examine the lining of the stomach.


Wireless Capsule GI Monitoring System:

In this test a non-digestible capsule is swallowed that records pH, temperature and pressure changes as it travels through the intestine .


Gastric Emptying Scans:

You eat food that contains a very small amount of radioactive substance, which is measured by a scanning technique as it empties from the stomach. If the scan shows that even after 4 hours of your eating, more than 10% of food is still in your stomach then you are diagnosed with gastroparesis.


Electrogastrography:

This test measures electrical activity in the stomach using electrodes placed on the skin.


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