Cyclic vomiting syndrome

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is characterized by episodes of severe vomiting that have no apparent cause. Episodes can last for hours or days and alternate with relatively symptom-free periods of time. Each episode is similar to previous ones, meaning that episodes tend to start at the same time of day, last the same length of time and occur with the same symptoms and level of intensity.

Once thought to affect only children, cyclic vomiting syndrome occurs in all age groups. Research suggests that cyclic vomiting syndrome may affect almost 2 percent of school-age children and that the number of cases diagnosed in adults is increasing.

Cyclic vomiting syndrome may be related to migraines. Episodes can be so severe that the person has to stay in bed for days.

The syndrome is difficult to diagnose because vomiting is a symptom of many disorders. Treatment generally involves managing symptoms and lifestyle changes to help prevent the events that can trigger vomiting episodes. Medications, including anti-nausea and migraine therapies, may help lessen symptoms.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

The symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome include:

  • Severe vomiting that occurs several times per hour and lasts less than one week
  • Three or more separate episodes of vomiting with no apparent cause in the past year

Other symptoms during a vomiting episode may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light

The intervals between vomiting episodes are generally symptom-free. But some people experience mild to moderate nausea or abdominal or limb pain between episodes.

Continued vomiting may cause severe dehydration that can be life threatening. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Less urination
  • Paleness
  • Exhaustion and listlessness

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