Gastroparesis is a chronic condition in which the stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through the digestive tract. In the case of gastroparesis, the stomach’s normal spontaneous muscle movement is slowed down or does not work at all, preventing the stomach from emptying properly. The causes of gastroparesis may be diverse, but most cases are classified as idiopathic or occurring secondary to diabetes mellitus. Population-based studies have shown that approximately 20% of patients with diabetes have upper GI symptoms.
Symptoms associated with gastroparesis range in severity, but can be very debilitating in moderate-to-severe cases. Common symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, bloating, early satiety, fullness after eating, and abdominal pain. In extreme cases, the inability to digest foods and liquids properly can also lead to malnutrition, weight loss, and dehydration, periodically resulting in hospitalization. The symptoms of gastroparesis also interfere with normal day-to-day activities, which can lead to feelings of being out of control, tense or anxious, dramatically impacting a patient’s quality of life.