Both type 1 and 2 diabetes can cause nerve damage. Diabetes may damage one of the nerves called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is responsible for the movement of food through your stomach.
When your vagus nerve is damaged, the muscles in the stomach and other parts of your digestive tract are unable to function properly. When this happens, the food consumed is unable to travel quickly through the digestive system.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Gastroparesis
Signs and symptoms that you may experience due to diabetic gastroparesis are as follows:
- Abdominal bloating
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- Vomiting undigested food (eaten a few hours earlier)
- Abdominal pain
- A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites
- Appetite loss
- Acid reflux
- Fluctuations in blood glucose levels
Diabetes is one of the causes that damages your vagus nerve, disturbing the function of your digestive system.
Uncontrolled sugar levels damage your vagus nerve. Also, high glucose levels damage your blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to your body’s nerves and organs, including your digestive tract and vagus nerve.
If you have diabetes, ask your doctor about diabetic gastroparesis and get proper treatment for diabetes.
Risk factors of diabetic gastroparesis include:
- Having type 1 diabetes
- Living with type 2 diabetes for more than 10 years
- Women with diabetes are at higher risk of developing it than men
- Eating disorders and previous abdominal/gastric surgeries
- Suffering from coexisting autoimmune conditions
Diabetic gastroparesis, sometimes, has no known cause, even after extensive testing.
Your doctor will examine your abdomen area and also ask about your symptoms. To rule out this condition, your doctor may order the following tests:
- Scintigraphy or gastric emptying scan: This test measures how quickly food moves out from your stomach. A slightly radioactive substance is added to your food. The radiation is small and safe. You are asked to eat and lie down under a machine that takes images of the food inside your stomach. Images will be taken every 15 minutes for up to 4 hours after you eat.
- Gastric emptying breath test (GEBT): This test determines how fast food moves from your stomach to the small intestine. This test measures the amount of carbon in your breath after you eat a meal or a food item specially prepared for the test.
- An X-ray or ultrasound: These imaging techniques show how your stomach and digestive system work. Your doctor may give you a chalky liquid to drink before an X-ray or ultrasound. This liquid helps show up your stomach and intestines very clearly on the monitor.
- Endoscopy: An endoscopy may help your doctor to understand the causes of your digestive problems. A scope is inserted in your body to get images of the inside of your stomach. It has a small camera with a light that helps capture the images. Samples may be taken from your digestive tract and sent for analysis.
The most important thing that you have to take care of is your blood sugar levels. Managing your blood sugar levels helps to treat diabetic gastroparesis.