Diabetic Gastroparesis

What is Diabetic Gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis is a disorder that occurs when the stomach takes too long to empty its contents. It affects the muscular movements that push food through the digestive tract and is common in people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. These patients experience nausea, abdominal distention, early satiety after meals, and frequent vomiting due to abnormal gastric emptying.

Causes & Risk Factors

The exact cause is unknown but it is believed to be caused by nerve damage. This nerve damage is the result of poor blood sugar control or metabolic disorders. Other medical conditions and medications can also cause gastroparesis. These include:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Post-viral illnesses
  • Medications (such as chemotherapy drugs, narcotic pain medications, and narcotics)
  • Pregnancy


The main symptom is vomiting. Patients may also experience abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, early satiety, and weight loss. Other symptoms may include abdominal distention and any number of symptoms related to blood-sugar control or digestive system problems. The treatment of gastroparesis depends on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause of the disorder. Some treatments focus on dietary and lifestyle changes, while others may include medications or surgery.

Dietary Changes

Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help manage symptoms by reducing the amount of food in the stomach at any one time. Eating high-fiber foods can slow digestion and reduce hunger. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Limiting fat in the diet and drinking plenty of fluids can also help.


Medications are prescribed depending on the underlying cause of gastroparesis. This may include medications such as metoclopramide (Reglan) or domperidone (Motilium) for gastroesophageal reflux or gastric emptying. Other medications such as prokinetics are used to reduce nausea and vomiting and can improve gastric emptying. Antidiabetic medications may be prescribed to manage diabetes if it is the underlying cause.


For severe cases of gastroparesis, surgery may be recommended. Procedures such as gastric electrical stimulation or gastric pacing can help improve gastric emptying and reduce symptoms. Another procedure, pyloroplasty, can widen the opening in the stomach and help food and liquids pass through more quickly. As with any surgery, risks and complications can include infection and bleeding.


Diabetic gastroparesis is a disorder that affects people with diabetes. It is characterized by nausea, abdominal distention, early satiety, and vomiting due to delayed gastric emptying. The underlying cause of the disorder is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by nerve damage from poor blood sugar control or metabolic disorders. Treatments include dietary changes, medications, and surgery.