Skip to Content

Diabetic Gastroparesis

What is diabetic gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis is a type of nerve damage that slows digestion. High blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage nerves and tissues in your stomach. The damage prevents your stomach from emptying normally. Gastroparesis is also called delayed gastric emptying.

What increases my risk for diabetic gastroparesis?

  • History of type 1 or type 2 diabetes for at least 10 years

  • Eye, nerve, or kidney problems due to diabetes

  • Female

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetic gastroparesis?

Your symptoms may be worse if you drink alcohol or smoke. You may have any of the following:

  • High or low blood sugar levels that you cannot control

  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite

  • Bloated or early full feeling while you eat

  • Sudden cramps, swelling, or pain in your abdomen

  • Weight loss

  • Heartburn

How is diabetic gastroparesis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will feel your abdomen and ask about your diabetes. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests may show how your body is working.

  • An x-ray or ultrasound may show how your stomach is working. You may be given a chalky liquid to drink before the pictures are taken. This liquid helps your stomach and intestines show up clearly on the monitor.

  • An endoscopy may show what is causing your digestive problems. A scope is used to show images of the inside of your stomach. A scope is a thin, bendable tube with a light and camera on the end. Samples may be taken from your digestive tract and sent to a lab for tests.

  • Scintigraphy , or gastric-emptying scan, measures how quickly food moves out of your stomach. A slightly radioactive substance is placed in food. The amount of radiation is small and safe. You eat the food and then lie under a machine that takes pictures of the food inside your stomach. Pictures will be taken every 15 minutes, up to 4 hours after you eat, or as directed.

  • A gastric manometry test is used to measure muscle movement in your stomach. Your healthcare provider will place a thin, flexible tube into your mouth and move it down into your stomach. The wire measures stomach activity, and shows if there are problems with digestion.

How is diabetic gastroparesis treated?

  • Medicines:

    • Nausea medicine helps calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.

    • Motility medicine helps your stomach muscles move food and liquids out of your stomach faster. This medicine also may help you digest food better.

    • Erythromycin helps improve stomach emptying.

    • Insulin changes may be needed, or you may need to start taking insulin. If you normally take insulin before you eat, you may instead need to start taking it after you eat. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the insulin you may need.

  • A feeding tube may be needed if your stomach cannot process food. You may need the feeding tube for a short time, until your stomach starts working properly. You may instead need a long-term feeding tube if your gastroparesis is severe. Ask for more information about feeding tubes.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Walk after you eat. This may help speed digestion.

  • Follow the meal plan that your healthcare or dietitian gave you. This meal plan can help decrease your symptoms. The following may also help you manage your symptoms:

    • Eat less fat and fiber. High-fat and high-fiber foods may be hard for your stomach to digest.

    • Eat 4 to 6 small meals a day. Smaller, more frequent meals are easier for your stomach to handle.

    • Drink more liquids with your meals. Your healthcare provider may recommend liquid meals, such as soup. Liquid is easier to digest than solid food.

    • Ask if you should prepare your food in a blender. Blended foods are easier to digest. Ask for directions on which foods to use and how to blend the food correctly.

    • Ask about vitamins you may need and how to add them to your meals.

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels, slow your digestion, and make it more difficult to manage your diabetes. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

  • Do not drink alcohol. These may slow your digestion further.

  • Follow your diabetes treatment plan. You may need to check your blood sugar more often. High blood sugar levels slow digestion and can make your symptoms worse.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are vomiting more severely or for a longer period than usual.

  • You urinate less than normal, and your mouth is dry.

  • You have fainted.

  • You have severe pain in your stomach or abdomen.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your blood sugar level is higher or lower than healthcare providers have told you it should be.

  • You continue to have pain and bloating in your abdomen.

  • You feel dizzy or weak.

  • You continue to have nausea and vomiting, or you are not able to eat.

  • You lose weight without trying.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

Learn more about Diabetic Gastroparesis

Hide