Nausea and Vomiting

  • Basics

    Nausea is that queasy feeling that often occurs right before you vomit. Vomiting involves forcefully ejecting stomach contents through the mouth. Both are experiences that almost everyone goes through at one time or another.

    Nausea and vomiting can occur together or independently; however, it is rare for them to occur separately. Nausea and vomiting can be insignificant, or can indicate a serious disease. Nausea and vomiting lasting less than 48 hours rarely presents a serious problem. If your symptoms last longer, they may signal a more serious illness.

    A specialist is occasionally required to treat nausea and vomiting. While a doctor is usually not needed in short-term uncomplicated nausea and vomiting, a general physician can certainly treat these symptoms. However, a specialist may be needed if the nausea and vomiting are caused by a serious illness.

  • Causes

    Nausea and vomiting can be caused by medication, infections, or an obstruction in the digestive tract.

    Certain dangerous bacteria in food—particularly in undercooked meat or eggs—may cause a specific type of nausea and vomiting called food poisoning.

    Nausea and vomiting may also stem from reactions in the central nervous system (CNS). If your illness does not seem to be caused by digestive problems, see your doctor to determine if it is caused by your central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord. Some of these causes include motion sickness, emotional responses to unpleasant smells or stress, a build-up of urine in the blood (uremia), or elevated levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).

    Pregnancy is a common cause of nausea and vomiting. In the first trimester, 70% of pregnant women experience morning sickness.

    Surgery often causes nausea and vomiting. Up to 40% of surgical operations are followed by postoperative nausea and vomiting, more commonly in women and children than in men. Newer anaesthetic agents such as propofol are less nausea-inducing than older agents.

    Severe nausea and vomiting may be a symptom of an illness associated with high fever (such as a viral illness). It can also be associated with pain, such as that resulting from a heart attack.

    Self-induced vomiting after binge eating is a symptom of bulimia, which is an eating disorder. Bulimia is an eating disorder in which a person eats large amounts of food and then forces himself or herself to vomit, takes laxatives or diuretics, fasts, or exercises vigorously to keep from gaining weight. The patient's dentist may diagnose this condition because the tooth enamel may be damaged from contact with stomach acid.

Recommended Reading

Meet the Pharmacists

I'm Kristen Dore, PharmD. Welcome to PDR Health!

Check out my latest blog post on heartburn medication

Nausea and Vomiting Related Drugs

Nausea and Vomiting Related Conditions