Gastroparesis – What Are The Causes of Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis symptoms disorder, is a condition where the stomach of diabetic patients, take a considerable amount of time to empty or digest its food contents. Causes of this illness is experienced when the nerves that lead to the stomach are damaged or stop functioning all together.

The movement of all food content through the digestive track, is enforced or controlled by the Vagus Nerve.

If this nerve is damaged due to the diabetes symptoms of this disorder, then the muscles of both the stomach and small intestines will not function correctly.

For this reason, the movement of any food from ones diet through the digestive track, will be slowed down or completely stopped. If the blood glucose of a type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes patient remain high for too long, damage to their Vagus Nerves can occur. Oxygen and nutrients are transported to the nerves by a network of blood vessels.

Symptoms of delayed gastric emptying

When the blood glucose of diabetics remain high for too long, a chemical change occurs in their nerves that can cause severe damage to these blood vessels. Another name for this diabetes symptom is delayed gastric emptying.

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Heartburn.
  • Nausea.
  • The vomiting of undigested food contents.
  • A feeling of fullness early while eating.
  • Weight loss.
  • Abdominal bloating.
  • Inconsistent blood glucose levels.
  • The absence of one's appetite.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Spasms in the walls of the stomach.

Depending on the condition of a diabetes patient, the gastro-paresis symptoms mentioned above, can be either mild or severe. Complications from gastroparesis causes could make your blood glucose more difficult to manage. This happens because the food content that enters the small intestines will cause an elevation in blood glucose to occur.

Individuals with diabetes, may experience other problems like bacterial overgrowth - which occurs when food becomes fermented in the stomach. This condition happens because the food was in their stomach for too long. Gastroparesis symptoms also causes the hardening of food which become solid masses called bezoars.

Problems caused by bezoars!

These solid masses can cause problems such as:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Possible obstruction in the stomach.

Bezoars can be dangerous because they can block the entrance of food into the small intestines.

Causes of gastroparesis symptoms

The major factors that contribute to the development of this condition are as follows:

  • Diabetes.
  • Postviral Syndromes.
  • Anorexia Nervosa.
  • Major Surgery to the stomach or Vagus Nerve.
  • Medications, particularly Anticholinergics. and Narcotics (drugs that slow contractions of the intestines).
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • Amylosidosis and Scleroderma which are disorders of the smooth muscles.
  • Nervous system disease, that include abdominal, migraine, and parkinson's disease.
  • Metabolic disorders, which include hypothyroidism.

Gastroparesis Diagnosis

Confirming that a diabetes patient have gastroparesis symptoms can only be determined with one of the following tests.

  • Barium X-Ray - This test is done after 12 hours of fasting. A diabetes patient is instructed to drink a thick liquid called Barium.

    The liquid coats the inside of their stomachs which allows it to to show up on an X-Ray.

    The contents of the stomach is digested after 12 hours of fasting; however, if the x-ray shows that the stomach still has food from the individual's diet, then chances are this diabetes condition exist. Sometimes a false reading can be obtain but if this happens then your doctor will have you repeat the test the next day.

  • Barium Beefsteak Meal - Individuals who have gastroparesis that is directly related or linked to diabetes, often times digest their liquids normally. Therefore this test is more useful than the Barium x-ray test. The barium beefsteak meal contains barium which allows your radiologist to see how your stomach is digesting a meal.

    The time you take to digest the barium meal, to the time it leaves your stomach can indicate to your doctor/s exactly how well your stomach is working.

  • Radioisotope Gastric Emptying - This test is done by allowing a diabetes patient to eat diet with foods that contains a radioisotope material. This is a substance that is slightly radioactive which allows it to show up on a scan. Fortunately for the individual, it is safe because the radiation present is very small; therefore, it does not put the patient in any danger.

    After eating this type of meal, a diabetic patient will be instructed to lie under a machine that will detect the radioisotope. The scan will produce an image of the food contents in the patient's stomach. It also reveals how quickly the food leaves the stomach. If more than half their food contents remain in their stomach, then their resulting diagnosis will be gastroparesis.

  • Gastric Manometry - This test involves the measurement of the electrical and muscular activities in the stomach of a diabetic patient. A small thin tube is passed down the throat of the patient until it enters their stomach. The measurements of the stomach's electrical and muscular activities are taken by a wire that is contained within the tube.

    These measurements will indicate if the stomach of this patient is working correctly as it digest liquids and solid foods. It will also indicate whether there is a delayed gastric emptying problem.

  • Blood Test - This particular test is ordered by your doctor, to check your blood counts, your electrolytes levels, and measure your chemical level. This will help your doctor rule out any possible causes of gastroparesis.

    It is possible that your doctor may even recommend that you have an endoscopy and an ultrasound done as well. By regaining proper control over their blood glucose levels, diabetes patients can treat their condition properly. To do this, they have to take their diabetes insulin, oral medications (anti-diabetic drugs), make changes to their diets, even if it involves intravenous feeding and the use of feeding tubes.

    This condition is not always cured for most cases because the condition can be chronic. Fortunately, your treatment can help you stay as healthy and as comfortable as possible.

The condition of gastroparesis causes your food to be absorbed slowly and at unpredictable times. This means that your blood glucose will be elevated for very long periods. This usually leads to other diabetes complications.

Drugs used in gastroparesis treatment

There are several drugs on the market that are used in gastroparesis treatment. Some of these drugs are used alone or in combinations with others to provide the best possible treatment for the patient. Your doctor will decide which type of treatment is best for you.

These drug treatments include:

  • Methoclopromide (Reglan). This drug works by stimulating the stomach muscle so that it contracts to properly empty its food contents.

    Vomiting and nausea are held to a minimum with this particular drug. It is administered 20 to 30 minutes before a meal and again at bedtime.

    The drug do have some side effects which include:

    1. Fatigue.
    2. Drowsiness.
    3. Depression (rare).
    4. Anxiety and problems in physical activity.
  • Erythromycin - This is an antibiotic which also helps to improves the emptying of the stomach. The drug works by causing increased contractions that will help move food through the stomach of a diabetes patient. The side effects of this drug include vomiting, nausea, and abdominal cramps.
  • Domperidone - This drug is under review by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However it has been used in the gastroparesis treatment in other parts of the world. This drug also helps with nausea and it is a promotility agent like metoclopramide.

There are over 23.6 million individuals affected by diabetes. Still combined with healthy eating, increased physical activities, and medications, diabetics can avoid or delay some of the serious complications which are associated with this illness. This include causes of gastroparesis.

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