Gastroparesis is a disorder affecting people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in which the stomach takes too long to empty its contents (delayed gastric emptying). The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the digestive tract. If the vagus nerve is damaged or stops working, the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally, and the movement of food is slowed or stopped.
Just as with other types of neuropathy, diabetes can damage the vagus nerve if blood glucose levels remain high over a long period of time. High blood glucose causes chemical changes in nerves and damages the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.
What are the Symptoms?
- Vomiting of undigested food
- Early feeling of fullness when eating
- Weight loss
- Abdominal bloating
- Erratic blood glucose (sugar) levels
- Lack of appetite
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Spasms of the stomach wall
These symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the person.
What are the Complications?
Gastroparesis can make diabetes worse by making it more difficult to manage blood glucose. When food that has been delayed in the stomach finally enters the small intestine and is absorbed, blood glucose levels rise.
If food stays too long in the stomach, it can cause problems like bacterial overgrowth because the food has fermented. Also, the food can harden into solid masses called bezoars that may cause nausea, vomiting, and obstruction in the stomach. Bezoars can be dangerous if they block the passage of food into the small intestine.
How is it Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of gastroparesis is confirmed through one or more of the following tests: