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Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis

Alternate Names

  • diabetic gastroparesis
  • Digestive system

Definition

Gastroparesis means paralysis of the stomach, and is a condition in which the stomach does not empty properly.

What is going on in the body?

In gastroparesis, the stomach does not empty properly. Food stays in the stomach for a long time. Although the exact cause is not known, gastroparesis is usually seen in people who have had diabetes for a long time.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

This condition is usually caused by long-standing diabetes. Poor thyroid function, certain medications, and some viral infections can cause gastroparesis.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

A person with diabetes who maintains good control of his or her blood sugar is less likely to develop this condition. The healthcare provider may want to review medications which may have caused the condition, or evaluate thyroid function.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

The symptoms are very suspicious in a person who has had diabetes for a long time. Sometimes medication is started to see if it helps the symptoms. If the medication works, the diagnosis is then assumed. A gastric emptying study, a test measuring how fast the stomach empties, can confirm the diagnosis.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

This condition can make it very hard to control blood sugar in a person with diabetes. It can lead to a greater risk of diabetic complications.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There is no risk to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Eating small, frequent meals can be helpful. Avoiding fatty foods and high residue foods (popcorn, raw vegetables and fruits), which slow stomach emptying, may be helpful. Medications, such as metoclopramide (i.e., Reglan), are often used to help the stomach to move faster.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Metoclopramide (i.e., Reglan) can cause drowsiness and problems with muscle movement and balance.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Gastroparesis is generally a life-long problem and treatment is often required for life.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

The person should report any return of symptoms to the healthcare provider. The provider can order another gastric emptying study to determine how well the medications are working.

Sources

Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 1998, Sleisenger et al.

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