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January 19, 2001

Complications

Question from Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA:

I'm 63 years old and have insulin dependent diabetes, in excellent sugar control. I am just getting over a bout with dysphagia. Is there a connection between dysphagia and diabetes? Why do people with diabetes get it?

Answer:

Dysphagia could potentially be a symptom of diabetic autonomic neuropathy. In this situation, the nerves controlling the normal movement of food through the esophagus are injured, allowing chaotic contractions and pain. In addition, the stomach can also be affected by neuropathy. The result is an enlarged dilated stomach which doesn’t empty appropriately. There can be hypoglycemia because food is not readily absorbed. There can also be postprandial nausea because of the dilated stomach. These are just a few examples of neuropathy involving the upper GI [gastrointestinal] tract.

JTL