Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a long-term (chronic) condition where the stomach can't empty itself in the normal way. Food passes through the stomach more slowly than usual. See your GP if you have symptoms of gastroparesis. This is because it can lead to some potentially serious complications, (see symptoms section below).

About gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is thought to be the result of a problem with the nerves and muscles controlling the emptying of the stomach.

If these nerves are damaged, the muscles of your stomach may not work properly and the movement of food can slow down.

Symptoms of gastroparesis

Symptoms of gastroparesis may include:

These symptoms can be mild or severe, and tend to come and go.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you're experiencing symptoms of gastroparesis, as it can lead to some potentially serious complications.

These include:

Causes of gastroparesis

In many cases of gastroparesis, there's no obvious cause.

Known causes of gastroparesis include:

Other possible causes include:

  • medication – such as opioid painkillers like morphine and some antidepressants
  • Parkinson's disease – a condition in which part of the brain becomes progressively damaged over many years
  • scleroderma – an uncommon disease that results in hard, thickened areas of skin, and sometimes problems with internal organs and blood vessels
  • amyloidosis – a group of rare but serious diseases caused by deposits of abnormal protein in tissues and organs throughout the body

Diagnosing gastroparesis

To diagnose gastroparesis, your GP will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and may arrange some blood tests. You may be referred to hospital for some tests.

Treating gastroparesis

Gastroparesis can't usually be cured, but dietary changes and medical treatment can help you control the condition.

Your GP or specialist looking after your care will discuss treatment options with you.

Advice for people with diabetes

Having gastroparesis means your food is being absorbed slowly and at times that can’t be predicted. If you also have diabetes, this can lead to wide swings in blood sugar levels.

The nerves to the stomach can be damaged by high levels of blood glucose. So it's important to keep your blood glucose levels under control if you have diabetes.

Your doctor can advise you about any changes you may need to make to your diet or medication.

If you're taking insulin, you may need to divide your dose before and after meals and inject into areas where absorption is typically slower, such as the thigh.

You'll also need to check your blood glucose levels regularly after you eat.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

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