Diabetes is a disorder caused by problems with the metabolism. While it is typically characterized with problems in blood sugar levels, it can cause other problems such as diabetic gastroparesis. This is a condition in which the stomach does not empty as it should, which can lead to a number of health problems besides the diabetes itself.
An estimated 23.6 million Americans are currently living with diabetes, and another 1.6 million people are diagnosed with the disease each year. There are three main forms of this disorder, type 1, type 2, and gestational. People with diabetes struggle with the regulation of glucose levels in the blood. Normally when we eat, the sugars in our foods are broken down into glucose before being carried around by the bloodstream to provide cells around the body with food for energy.
For cells to take up the glucose, the pancreas must produce insulin. However, for people with diabetes, the pancreas produces little to no insulin. This means that the cells cannot take up glucose to produce energy and perform the function necessary of them. Glucose builds up in the blood and is eventually passed through the urine.
While the main symptoms of diabetes include such things as excessive thirst or appetite, frequent urination, fatigue, and unusual weight fluctuations, another problem that can occur is called gastroparesis. This occurs when the stomach is delayed in emptying. It typically happens with type 1 diabetes, although it can come with type 2 as well. Usually, it is a symptom that does not show up until about ten years into a person’s issues with diabetes.
Gastroparesis is the result of damage to the vagus nerve. It is responsible for regulation the digestive tract and the muscles involved in food processing. Diabetes is the main cause of gastroparesis because the disorder leads to chemical changes in nerves, as well as damage to the blood vessels that support the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Thus, it can easily damage the vagus nerve.
With gastroparesis, the vagus nerve does not signal that the stomach should digest food and pass it along into the intestines. Signs that you may have gastroparesis include:
Heartburn (acid reflux)
Gastroparesis can cause more serious health problems like bacterial infections if the undigested food just sits in the stomach and spoils. Also, it can form a hardened lump called a bezoar, which can later contribute to blockages in the intestines.
To help protect people from these problems, many doctors prescribed Reglan to people with gastroparesis. Sadly, though, the side effects of Reglan can be even more damaging and even lead to permanent disabilities like tardive dyskinesia.