Nausea and Vomiting Causes, Symptoms, Diet, and Treatment Options
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- Nausea and vomiting definition and facts
- What is nausea? What is vomiting?
- What causes nausea or vomiting?
- Throat and stomach irritants that cause nausea and vomiting
- Nausea and vomiting caused by neurological conditions
- Other diseases and conditions that cause nausea and vomiting
- Nausea and vomiting caused by medications and medical treatments
- Morning sickness nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
- Vomiting in infants
- How do doctors diagnose the cause of nausea and vomiting?
- What natural home remedies help relieve for nausea or vomiting?
- What is the medical treatment for nausea or vomiting?
- When should I call the doctor if I have nausea and vomiting?
Nausea and vomiting definition and facts
- Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of a disease or condition. Examples include:
- It is important to control nausea, vomiting, and any other associated symptoms both for comfort's sake and to prevent dehydration since dehydration can worsen your nausea and vomiting.
- The cause of your nausea and vomiting, and any other associated symptoms, for example, a medication, disease, or condition, food, should be identified and treated.
- Generally, non-serious causes of nausea and vomiting can be relieved with OTC (over-the-counter) medicine (medication that is available with out a prescription from your doctor), or if known, discontinuing the offending product.
- More severe cases of nausea and vomiting may require medical treatment.
- Remember, never stop taking your prescription drugs without talking with your doctor or health care professional first.
What is nausea? What is vomiting?
Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of an underlying illness and due to a not a specific disease. Nausea is the sensation that the stomach wants to empty itself, while vomiting (emesis) or throwing up, is the act of forcible emptying of the stomach. The term "dry heaves" (retching) refers to an episode of vomiting where there is no food in the stomach to vomit, and only small amounts of clear secretions are vomited.
Vomiting is a violent act in which the stomach, the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine forcibly expel contents of the stomach (and sometimes the small intestine) in a coordinated fashion.
What causes nausea or vomiting?
There are numerous causes of nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may be due to:
- Acute gastritis (direct irritation of the stomach lining)
- Central causes in which signals from the vomiting center in the brain cause nausea and vomiting
- Other illnesses not due to stomach problems, for example, brain tumors, pancreatitis, and appendicitis
- Medications, medical treatments, and illicit or illegal drugs, drug or alcohol overdose
- Mechanical obstruction of the bowel
Throat and stomach irritants that cause nausea and vomiting
Acute gastritis or esophagitis often caused by something that irritates the lining of the stomach or throat. Examples include:
- Infections: Infections are often the cause of stomach irritation, whether it is a common virus or another type of infection. There may be associated crampy upper abdominal pain that is associated with the nausea and vomiting. Fever ,and chills may be present. Common viral infections include noroviruses and rotavirus. Infection by bacteria in the Helicobacter family (such as H. Pylori) can also be the infectious agent.
- Stomach flu: Stomach flu (gastroenteritis) is when vomiting and diarrhea occur together and is associated with a viral infectio that is outside of the stomach. It should not be confused with the flu (influenza), a viral infection with symptoms include fever, chills, cough, and muscle pain.
- Food poisoning: Food poisoning may cause significant vomiting, and the most common cause is a toxin released by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Symptoms of food poisoning begin within a couple hours of eating contaminated or poorly prepared food. Other bacterial causes of food poisoning include Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, E. coli, Listeria, or Clostridium botulinum (botulism).
- Other stomach irritants: alcohol, smoking, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen may irritate the stomach lining and cause nausea and vomiting.
- Peptic ulcer disease: Peptic ulcer disease can range from mild irritation of the stomach lining to the formation of a defect in the protective lining of the stomach called an ulcer.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, reflux esophagitis): Nausea or vomiting is also associated with GERD (acid from the stomach is refluxed into the esophagus).
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