Gastroparesis: Symptoms, Causes and Complications

Gastroparesis is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles in our stomachs is not functioning normally.

Gastroparesis is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles in our stomachs is not functioning normally. When there is a strong muscular contraction, then it propels food through your digestive tract. But when we suffer from gastroparesis, then our stomach motility is working poorly or it is not working at all. This means that this will prevent your stomach from emptying properly. [1] This condition interfere normal digestion. Gastroparesis can cause nausea and vomiting. Also it can cause you problems with nutrition and blood sugar levels. The real cause of gastroparesis is not known. When this is the case, then it is called IG (idiopathic gastroparesis). When people who suffer from diabetes develop gastroparesis, then this condition is known as DG (diabetic gastroparesis). [2] Also there are some cases when people develop gastroparesis after surgery. There is not cure for this condition but some medications, natural cures and changes in your diet can give you a relief from it.

Symptoms of gastroparesis

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of gastroparesis: [1]

  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Lack of appetite
  • Changes in blood sugar levels
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you have noticed that you have some of the mentioned signs and symptoms and if they worry you, then you need to visit your doctor as soon as possible. If your doctor suspects that you may have gastroparesis, then he can refer you to gastroenterologist, who is a doctor specialized in digestive diseases. Also your doctor can refer you to a dietitian who can help to choose foods that can be easily processed. Tell your doctor all the symptoms that you have experienced and if you have taken some medication, then you should tell this as well.

Causes for gastroparesis:

It is not always clear what can cause gastroparesis. But in the most cases is believed that gastroparesis can be caused by damage to a nerve which is controlling the stomach muscles. This nerve is known as vagus nerve. The vagus nerve can help you to manage the complex processes in your digestive tract in which are included signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push the food into your small intestines. When the vagus nerve is damaged, then it cannot send signals normally to your stomach muscles. This can cause the food that you consume to remain in your stomach longer, rather than move normally into your small intestines to be digested. Diabetes or surgery to the stomach or small intestines can cause damage to vagus nerve. [3]


Gastroparesis is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles in our stomachs is not functioning normally.

Risk factors: Here are the factors which can make it difficult for your stomach to empty properly:

  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid) [4]
  • Nervous system diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease [5]
  • Scleroderma (a connective tissue disease) [6]
  • Certain cancer treatments such as radiation therapy [7]
  • Certain medications that slow the rate of stomach emptying such as narcotic pain medications
  • Infection, usually a virus [8]
  • Abdominal or esophageal surgery
  • Diabetes [2]

It is known fact that young and middle – aged women are having the biggest chances of developing IG (idiopathic gastroparesis).

Complications: This condition can cause several complications such as

  • Decreased quality of life: Acute flare – up of symptoms can make it difficult to work. [9]
  • Blood sugar fluctuations: Although gastroparesis does not cause diabetes, inconsistent passage of food into the small bowel can cause erratic changes in blood sugar levels, which makes diabetes worse. In turn, poor control of blood sugar levels make gastroparesis worse. [10]
  • Undigested food that hardens and remains in your stomach: Undigested food in your stomach can harden into a solid mass called a bezoar. Bezoars can cause nausea and vomiting and may be life – threatening if they prevent food from passing into your small intestines.
  • Malnutrition: Poor appetite can mean that you do not take enough calories, or you may be unable absorb enough nutrients due to vomiting. [11]
  • Severe dehydration: Ongoing vomiting can cause dehydration.

Above are some of the complications of gastroparesis.


[1] Vavricka SR, Greuter T. Gastroparesis and dumping syndrome: Current concepts and management. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2019;8(8):1127.

[2] Young CF, Moussa M, Shubrook JH. Diabetic gastroparesis: A review. Diabetes Spectrum. 2020;33(3):290-7.

[3] Godinez J, Tran A, Colella D, et al. A rare cause of gastroparesis to remember: Vagus nerve damage secondary to cardiac catheter ablation. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017;112:S1415.

[4] Yaylali O, Kirac S, Yilmaz M, et al. Does hypothyroidism affect gastrointestinal motility? Gastroenterology Research and Practice. 2009.

[5] Heetun ZS, Quigley EMM. Gastroparesis and Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. 2012;18(5):433-40.

[6] Miller JB, Gandhi N, Clarke J, McMahan Z. Gastrointestinal involvement in systemic sclerosis: An update. JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. 2018;24(6):328-37.

[7] Annede P, Prieux-Klotz C, Dubergé T, et al. Radiation induced gastroparesis-Case report and literature review. Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology. 2017;8(4):E52-E55.

[8] Thorn AR. Not just another case of nausea and vomiting: A review of postinfectious gastroparesis. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 2010;22:125–33.

[9] Lacy BE, Crowell MD, Mathis C, et al. Gastroparesis: Quality of life and health care utilization. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2016;52(1):1.

[10] Marathe CS, Rayner CK, Jones KL, Horowitz M. Relationships between gastric emptying, postprandial glycemia, and incretin hormones. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(5):1396-405.

[11] Bharadwaj S, Meka K, Tandon P, et al. Management of gastroparesis‐associated malnutrition. Journal of Digestive Diseases. 2016;17(5):285-94.


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