Gastroparesis | Causes & Risk Factors


Who is at risk of gastroparesis?

People who have diabetes are most at risk for gastroparesis because high blood sugar levels can damage the vagus (say: “vay-gus”) nerve. The vagus nerve tells your stomach muscles when to contract. Damage to this nerve is one of the most common causes of gastroparesis. Diabetes can also damage the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the vagus nerve.

Other things that can lead to gastroparesis include:

  • Some medicines, such as certain pain medicines, antidepressants and others
  • Surgery on the esophagus (the tube the runs from the mouth to the stomach), the stomach or the upper small intestine
  • Radiation of the chest or stomach area for cancer treatment
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Other disorders, including hypothyroidism, scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease and some autoimmune disorders
  • Rarely, viral infections such as the flu


Gastrointestinal Complications of Diabetes by Amer Shakil, MD, Robert J. Church, MD, and Shobha S. Rao, MD (American Family Physician June 15, 2008,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 10/09