Ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, and pancreatitis aren't the only causes of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) - a lesser-known condition - may be the cause of your or your child's symptoms. But because many other illnesses have these same symptoms, CVS can be hard to diagnose.
Although cyclic vomiting syndrome is more common in children than in adults, individuals of any age can suffer from the condition. In fact, doctors are diagnosing increasing numbers of adults who experience cyclic episodes of severe vomiting with CVS, especially if there is no apparent cause.
Severe nausea and vomiting that continues for hours or days are the most common symptoms of CVS. Generally, episodes of vomiting are similar in duration, severity, and symptoms each time they occur.
Additional symptoms that may accompany cyclic episodes of vomiting include retching, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sensitivity to light, and headache. Even though recurrent vomiting can occur within hours and over several days, you generally remain free of symptoms during the times between episodes.
Dehydration is a possible complication of CVS. Both severe vomiting and diarrhea can lead to the loss of fluids and minerals the body needs to stay healthy. Signs to watch for include dry mouth and skin, decreased urination, listlessness, excessive thirst, and headache.
Other potential complications of excessive throwing up include tooth decay and damage to the esophagus - the tube that connects the throat and stomach through which food passes from the mouth.
Stomach acid in vomit is corrosive and can eat away at tooth enamel and irritate the lining of the esophagus. Frequent or forceful vomiting can also cause small tears in the lower esophagus and stomach, which can cause you to throw up blood.
Because there are no specific tests to diagnose cyclic vomiting syndrome, if a doctor suspects that you or your child may have CVS, he or she will rule out other conditions first. The doctor may begin by ordering an ultrasound or CT scan to check for blockages or obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract.
A barium swallow and endoscopy are other imaging studies your doctor may order to rule out ulcers as the cause of nausea and vomiting. He or she may also order laboratory tests to check for thyroid problems or metabolic conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
For example, although hypothyroidism is a rare cause of nausea, recurrent vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, thyroid gland malfunction can cause these symptoms. Metabolic conditions, such as hypercalcaemia - too much calcium in your blood - can also cause persistent nausea and vomiting.
Although the cause of cyclic vomiting syndrome remains unknown, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, nervous system disorders, and a family history of migraines are possible causes. While a direct link between migraines and CVS hasn't been established, many children with cyclic vomiting suffer abdominal migraines.
Along with pain around the belly button, common symptoms of abdominal migraines include nausea and vomiting. Children with CVS often have adult family members who suffer migraine headaches and go on to experience migraine headaches themselves when they get older.
Episodes of cyclic vomiting may be triggered by anxiety in adults, nervous excitement or emotional stress in children, intense exercise, physical exhaustion, allergies or other sinus problems, and foods such as chocolate or caffeine. Identifying and then avoiding the triggers can help reduce the frequency of vomiting episodes.
While there currently is no cure for CVS, treatment generally focuses on controlling the symptoms. Doctors generally prescribe anti-nausea drugs that block serotonin, which is a brain chemical that can trigger nausea and vomiting. Other medication regimens may include medications that suppress stomach acid secretion, tricyclic antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and medications used to treat migraine headaches.
If you are suffering from recurring nausea and vomiting, the physicians at Digestive Disease Consultants can diagnose the root cause and recommend the necessary medical treatment. Call today for an appointment.