Overview & Causes
Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a digestive system condition in which the stomach takes an abnormally long time to empty its contents in the absence of blockage. The food we eat is not digested because it stays in the stomach rather than proceeding on to the next sections of the digestive tract. This is caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which has a very important function in the process of digestion because it is directly responsible for the contraction of the stomach muscles (peristaltic movement). The vagus nerve sends signals to the brain to indicate that the stomach is full. Normal contractions ensure that the food continues to go down on the digestive tract.
Females are most commonly affected by gastroparesis because of the peristaltic movement of their stomach is usually slower. Although not definitely proven, some clinical studies suggest that hormonal changes contributes to this condition, another potential reason why women are more frequently affected. Most common cause of gastroparesis is diabetes.
Gastroparesis may be transient or chronic depending on its cause. Transient types can be a result of certain medications, such as narcotics (and in particular specific narcotics that slow contractions in the intestine), tricyclic antidepressant, calcium channel blockers and progesterone. Smoking is also one of the causes, since nicotine also causes impaired stomach emptying. Other acute conditions which hinder the normal movement of stomach muscles, such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa can also originate in the transient gastroparesis. Certain infections have also been associated with gastroparesis.
Chronic gastroparesis are commonly the result of long standing Diabetes Mellitus of any type, as high blood glucose damages blood vessels that deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the nerve, in this case, the vagus nerve. Chronic types can also be linked to other autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia and Parkinson's disease. Some chronic cases are also the result of abdominal surgery that cuts the blood supply to the vagus nerve. Idiopathic gastroparesis is also often chronic and normally presents itself as a silent disease, because even if there are symptoms, the condition is hardly recognized by diagnostic tests. Some researchers hypothesize that the idiopathic type is due to acute viral conditions such as stomach flu and mononucleosis. One of the major causes are metabolic disorders, including hypothyroidism.Last Updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011