Gastroparesis - Possible Causes

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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.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Lulu, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 22

I suddenly became violently ill, with horrible belching, diarrhea, and vomiting, until I passed out. One hour later, according to my husband, I was in the emergency room. I remember an emergency medical technician slapping my hand in the ambulance saying, Stay with me, dear. Stay with me! They pumped saline into me at the hospital, and tested fecal samples. I was told that I had a rare bacterial infection in my intestines. Three other people had been treated for it at that small-city hospital the same weekend, and one, we later learned, was the son of a woman my husband worked with. That is when the troubles started. I wonder if any of the other people got gastroparesis. I had intermittent spells of the vomiting and diarrhea, getting worse and more frequent, until finally, a gastroenterologist had a gastric emptying study done. After a couple of months, he had me taper off the Reglan, and I seemed fine except for a few bouts (which I attributed to food poisoning, of course) for about five years. I was in denial. Now it is back full force and I can't deny it anymore. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months, and I did not need to lose weight. We can't even think about going out to eat, because there is nothing on any menu that I can tolerate. I feel like I have had a slow death sentence given to me. I want to feel good! I want to have some energy! I want my family to understand what I go through, but they don't. They sympathize, but can't empathize. I guess I will be living on what amounts to baby-food-style puree for the rest of my life.

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Comment from: MedicalIssues2, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 29

It could've been a virus that set off my gastroparesis symptoms, or it could've been a spike in my fasting blood sugars. I'll never know for certain, my doctors say, but most likely it was my type 2 diabetes, which I was diagnosed with 3 years ago.

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