Your digestive system consists of many key players, with one crucial element being your stomach muscles and the way they tighten. These contractions are what move food through the digestive tract and eventually out of your body, so they’re important for emptying your stomach and making room for your next meal. However, those with diabetes may experience nerve damage from chronic high blood sugar that causes these stomach muscles to slow down or not contract at all. This condition, called diabetic gastroparesis, keeps the stomach from emptying properly, slowing digestion and making you feel too full to eat.
Triad Clinical Trials developed this resources page to provide information on diabetic gastroparesis and hopefully answer any questions you have concerning this condition.
What are the symptoms of diabetic gastroparesis?
The most noticeable symptom of diabetic gastroparesis is a feeling of fullness, similar to how you feel after having a large meal. The difference, though, is that this feeling occurs even after eating only a small amount of food. Additionally, discomfort, bloating, or painful digestion often accompanies this feeling of fullness.
Other symptoms of diabetic gastroparesis can include:
- poor appetite
These symptoms may begin soon after starting to eat or long after your meal is complete.
What causes diabetic gastroparesis?
Diabetic gastroparesis results from nerve damage due to high blood sugar.
Those with diabetes have too much sugar in their blood, and if it remains uncontrolled for a long amount of time, it can damage the nerves. If it affects the vagus nerve, which stretches from the brain to the abdomen, it can cause the stomach muscles to slow their contractions or not contract at all. This can then lead to slow and painful digestion and difficulty emptying the contents of the stomach.
Who is at risk of diabetic gastroparesis?
Anyone with diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic gastroparesis, and the following factors can increase this risk further:
- having diabetes for a long time
- uncontrolled blood sugar
- being overweight
- having kidney disease
Research also shows that diabetic gastroparesis is more common in those with type 1 diabetes (5%) than those with type 2 diabetes (1%).
In addition to having diabetes, having previous abdominal surgeries or a history of eating disorders can also increase the risk of developing diabetic gastroparesis.
Can you prevent diabetic gastroparesis?
Those with diabetes can prevent or delay nerve damage by keeping their blood glucose levels within their target range, as specified by their doctor. Some tools to accomplish this include physical activity, meal planning, and medications.
What treatments are available?
The first course of action for those with diabetic gastroparesis is to adjust their insulin regimen in order to better manage their blood sugar levels. This may include:
- taking insulin after eating, not before
- changing the type of insulin taken
- taking insulin more often
- checking blood glucose levels after a meal and taking insulin if needed.
For severe cases of gastroparesis, gastric electrical stimulation is a possible treatment where a surgeon implants a device that delivers electrical pulses to the smooth muscles and nerves in the lower stomach.
There are also new treatments for diabetic gastroparesis available only through clinical trials. Those interested in trying new therapies and contributing to innovative research can join these trials for free and may receive compensation for time and travel.
Sign up with Triad Clinical Trials today to learn more about paid research studies for those with diabetic gastroparesis.