Gastroparesis (cont.)

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What causes gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis can be caused either by diseases of the stomach's muscles or the nerves that control the muscles, though often no specific cause is identified. The most common disease causing gastroparesis is diabetes mellitus, which damages the nerves controlling the stomach muscles.

Gastroparesis also can result from damage to the vagus nerve, the nerve that controls the stomach's muscles, that occurs during surgery on the esophagus and stomach. Scleroderma is an example of a disease in which gastroparesis is due to damage to the stomach's muscles. Occasionally, gastroparesis is caused by nervous reflexes, for example, when the pancreas is inflamed (pancreatitis). In such cases, neither the nerves nor the muscles are diseased, but messages are sent through nerves from the pancreas to the stomach which prevents the muscles from working normally.

Other causes of gastroparesis include imbalances of minerals in the blood such as potassium, calcium or magnesium, medications (such as narcotic pain-relievers), and thyroid disease. For a substantial number of patients no cause can be found for the gastroparesis, a condition termed idiopathic gastroparesis. Indeed, idiopathic gastroparesis is the second most frequent cause of gastroparesis after diabetes.

Gastroparesis can occur as an isolated problem or it can be associated with weakness of the muscles of other parts of the intestine, including the small intestine, colon and esophagus.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/20/2012

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