Vomiting and Nausea
Vomiting and Nausea Facts
Vomiting and nausea are common symptoms that accompany many diseases and conditions. Problems with nausea and vomiting are related to the cause. Nausea and vomiting from motion sickness, seasickness, food poisoning, or cancer therapy can result in loss of water and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration. Vomiting and nausea known as morning sickness may occur during pregnancy.
- Nausea is an unpleasant, queasy feeling in the throat or stomach that may result in vomiting.
- Vomiting is emptying the stomach as a result of strong gagging and retching that leads to throwing up. The stomach's contents are forcefully expelled through the mouth.
- Vomiting can come in waves as the natural movement (muscle contractions of the digestive system known as peristalses) is reversed, and involuntary contractions in the walls of the stomach and esophagus force the stomach contents out.
- Sometimes coughing or spitting up mucus from the lungs is confused with vomiting. Vomiting can only come from the stomach.
- Retching is the reverse movement (peristalsis) of the stomach and esophagus without vomiting. Sometimes this is called the dry heaves.
What Causes Vomiting and Nausea?
Nausea and vomiting are controlled by the same parts of the brain that control involuntary bodily functions. Vomiting is actually a reflex triggered by a signal from the brain.
The signal to vomit can result from several stimuli such as smells, taste, various illnesses, emotions (such as fear), pain, injury, infection, food irritation, dizziness, motion, and other changes in the body, specifically these:
- Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia)
- Food poisoning
- Certain viral infections
- Motion sickness (car sickness, seasickness)
- Vertigo (the sensation that the room is spinning around)
- Head injuries (such as a concussion or bleeding injury)
- Gallbladder disease
- Migraine (a severe form of headache)
- Brain tumors
- Brain infections (such as meningitis)
- Hydrocephalus (too much fluid in the brain)
- Side effects of anesthesia used for surgery
- Stomach problems such as blockage (pyloric obstruction, a condition that causes forceful spitting up in infants)
- Bleeding into the stomach from different causes
- Infection, irritation, or blockage of the intestines
- Low or high body chemicals and minerals
- Presence of toxins in the body
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Alcohol from beer, wine, and liquor is turned into a chemical (acetaldehyde), which results in the sensation of nausea that is felt the next morning, known as a "hangover"
- Nausea and vomiting occur frequently in pregnancy. Morning sickness usually happens in the first few months but sometimes can last throughout the pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of some medications. Usually nausea is not an allergy to a drug (which is a severe reaction that can include skin rash or trouble breathing), but an unwanted side effect of the medicine. Some medicines such as those used in cancer treatment (chemotherapy), antibiotics like erythomycin, and strong pain killers are well known to cause nausea and vomiting.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/2/2016
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