What Are the Causes of Gastroparesis?

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Gastroparesis is a medical condition that affects the normal movement of the muscles in the stomach. This can cause food to stay in the stomach for a longer period of time, leading to a variety of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The causes of gastroparesis can vary, with some cases being caused by underlying medical conditions and others being idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.

Diabetes

One of the most common causes of gastroparesis is diabetes. High blood sugar levels can
damage the nerves that control the muscles in the stomach, leading to gastroparesis. This is known as diabetic gastroparesis. In fact, up to 50% of people with diabetes may develop gastroparesis.

Diabetes diet and gastroparesis

Post-Viral Gastroparesis

Another cause of gastroparesis is a condition called post-viral gastroparesis. This occurs after a person has had a viral infection, such as the norovirus or the cytomegalovirus. The virus can damage the nerves in the stomach, leading to gastroparesis.

Medications

Certain medications can cause gastroparesis by slowing down the movement of the muscles in the stomach. These include:

  • Antidepressants: Some antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can slow down the movement of muscles in the stomach, leading to gastroparesis.
  • Antipsychotics: Medications used to treat psychosis and schizophrenia, such as
    haloperidol and risperidone, can also slow down the movement of muscles in the
    stomach.
  • Opioids: Narcotic pain medications, such as morphine and oxycodone, can also slow down the movement of muscles in the stomach, leading to gastroparesis.

It’s important to note that not everyone who takes these medications will develop gastroparesis, and in many cases the symptoms can be managed by adjusting the dosage or switching to a different medication. However, if you experience symptoms of gastroparesis such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about your medication regimen.

Idiopathic Gastroparesis

In some cases, the cause of gastroparesis is unknown. This is referred to as idiopathic
gastroparesis. It is believed that idiopathic gastroparesis may be caused by an autoimmune disorder or a problem with the muscles in the stomach.

Gastroparesis can also be caused by certain medical procedures, such as a vagotomy, which is a surgical procedure that involves cutting the vagus nerve, which controls the muscles in the stomach. This can lead to gastroparesis.

In rare cases, gastroparesis can be caused by a tumor or a mass in the stomach. This can block the movement of food through the stomach, leading to gastroparesis.

Symptoms

The symptoms of gastroparesis can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food.


In severe cases, gastroparesis can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.

It is also important to note that gastroparesis can develop suddenly, without any warning or known cause. In this case, it is important to speak to a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Gastroparesis symptoms

Treatment

The treatment of gastroparesis depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is diabetes, then controlling blood sugar levels may help improve the symptoms of gastroparesis.

If the cause is a medication, then switching to a different medication may help. In cases where the cause is unknown, treatment may include medications to help control the symptoms of gastroparesis, such as nausea and vomiting. These medications include
metoclopramide and erythromycin.

Dietary changes can also help to manage the symptoms of gastroparesis. This may include:

  • Eating smaller.
  • Frequent meals.
  • Avoiding high-fat foods.
  • Avoiding foods that are difficult to digest.

In some cases, a feeding tube may be necessary to provide nutrition to a person with gastroparesis. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a tumor or mass that is one of the causes of gastroparesis. Find out how gastroparesis affects your gastric balloon insertion from Spatz Medical.

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