What Is Gastroparesis?

What Is Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a chronic disorder in which your stomach doesn’t empty properly. Also referred to as delayed stomach emptying or gastric emptying, gastroparesis slows or stops food movement from passing from the stomach to the small intestine.

Normally, it takes the stomach 1 to 1 ½ hours to grind food into smaller pieces and push them along the digestive tract. The stomach nerves and muscles are too weak to contract effectively with gastroparesis. A digestive delay can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or more serious health complications.

There is no known cure for gastroparesis, but changes to your diet and certain medications can improve your quality of life. In more acute cases of gastroparesis, surgical procedures may be recommended.

Signs & Symptoms of Gastroparesis


Gastroparesis can interfere with the digestion process. Some cases of gastroparesis are asymptomatic, while others can cause mild to extreme symptoms.

Symptoms of gastroparesis can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting undigested food
  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux
  • Feeling full after only a few bites of a meal
  • Staying full long after you’ve finished eating
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weight loss due to poor appetite

Many of these gastroparesis symptoms mirror signs of other health issues. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can help determine if you have gastroparesis and come up with a treatment plan.

What Causes Gastroparesis?


Poorly controlled diabetes is the most common cause of gastroparesis. Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve — the longest cranial nerve in the body that helps regulate internal organ functions, including contractions of stomach muscles for digestion. Diabetes and other diseases that harm the vagus nerve can be causes of slow digestion.

Many causes of gastroparesis stem from underlying risk factors, including diabetes. Because of this, gastroparesis can usually not be prevented.

Causes and risk factors for gastroparesis include:

  • Diabetes
  • Abdominal surgery that results in an injury to the vagus nerve
  • Viral infections
  • Amyloidosis, a rare disease that causes abnormal protein build-up in organs
  • Scleroderma, a connective tissue disorder that can affect internal organs such as your stomach
  • Certain medications, including tricyclic antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, and opioid pain relievers
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hyperthyroidism



Left untreated, gastroparesis can lead to more severe health complications, such as:

  • Dehydration. This can be caused by continuous vomiting
  • Malnutrition. This can result from vomiting or poor appetite
  • Stomach blockage. Food that remains in the stomach for too long can form into a hard lump, called a bezoar. The solid mass may block food from passing into your small intestine.
  • Erratic blood sugar levels. Frequent fluctuations in the amount of food passing into the small intestine can cause poor control of blood sugar. This can exacerbate diabetes and gastroparesis symptoms.
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Gastroparesis Care

The physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian are experts in identifying the signs and symptoms of gastroparesis and finding the root cause of the condition. Seeking help now could prevent more serious complications in the future. Our doctors offer personalized solutions to treat gastroparesis and help improve your quality of life.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gastroparesis or other gastrointestinal tract diseases, reach out to NewYork-Presbyterian for a diagnosis and to learn about your treatment options.