Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are uncomfortable symptoms that may or may not be indicative of a serious disorder. Nausea is a feeling of uneasiness in the stomach, usually accompanied by the sensation that one needs to, or is about to, vomit. Vomiting is the emptying, most often involuntarily, but occasionally voluntarily, of the stomach contents through the mouth.

Causes of Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting may result from a great variety of conditions, including both temporary distress or infirmity and serious disease.

Common Causes of Nausea and Vomiting

Many situations can precipitate nausea or vomiting even though they do not present serious medical conditions. Although these occurrences may be acutely uncomfortable, they do not necessarily require medical attention. Common causes of nausea and vomiting include:

  • Overeating
  • Motion sickness
  • Physical revulsion or disgust
  • Early stages of pregnancy
  • Migraine or other serious headache
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Medication reaction
  • Acid reflux

While many mild or short-lived cases of nausea or vomiting can simply be waited out, prolonged or severe vomiting, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, seizures or blood in the vomitus, necessitate immediate medical care. Even in situations in which individuals may be expected to experience nausea or vomiting, such as during early pregnancy or after chemotherapy, medical consultation can be needed to provide reassurance, advice, or prescription medications to assist in symptom relief.

More Serious Causes of Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be indicators of serious injury or disease. This is especially true if the symptoms are ongoing or recurrent. More serious causes of nausea or vomiting include:

  • Food poisoning
  • Intestinal injury or blockage
  • Appendicitis
  • Eating disorders
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Brain, kidney, or liver disease
  • Heart attack
  • Encephalitis or meningitis
  • Gastrointestinal inflammation

The causes of extensive or unusually severe vomiting should always be investigated, if only to rule out serious causes and possible complications.

Treatment of Nausea and Vomiting

In mild cases of nausea and vomiting, changing dietary or lifestyle habits, altering medication regimen, or taking certain over-the-counter or prescribed anti-nausea medicines may be sufficient to cope with the problem.

Home remedies to control nausea include limiting intake of food, resting with the head elevated,and temporarily reducing fluid intake to small sips. Usually in patients who have experienced nausea or vomiting, small amounts of easy to digest foods are gradually reintroduced until the patient can resume eating a normal diet.

Treating cases of nausea and vomiting that result from more serious underlying conditions may require hospitalization or even surgery. Intravenous administration of fluids, salt and electrolytes is usually necessary. For patients with eating or substance abuse disorders, self-help groups, psychotherapy and/or inpatient therapy may be required.

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