Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

Man with head in toilet

What is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is a condition that involves unexplained episodes of severe vomiting. Vomiting episodes may last for several hours or even several days, with symptom-free periods between episodes.

Vomiting episodes tend to look alike, meaning each episode usually starts at the same time of day, involves the same symptoms, and lasts for the same amount of time. While cyclic vomiting syndrome is more common in children and tends to begin between ages 3 to 7, more and more adults are being diagnosed with the condition.

Symptoms of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome tend to appear in the morning. Vomiting episodes usually start with extreme nausea and sweating. Additional symptoms of an episode of cyclic vomiting syndrome include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Diarrhea
  • Gagging

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is diagnosed when a person experiences three or more episodes of recurrent vomiting, with periods of normal health between episodes.

What are the complications of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome can cause complications, as repeated vomiting can lead to dehydration. In some cases, dehydration can be severe and life-threatening. Signs of dehydration with cyclic vomiting syndrome are as follows:

  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dryness of the skin
  • Lack of energy
  • Crying without tears
  • Sunken in eyes or cheeks

A child who is showing any of the above symptoms should receive treatment from a doctor. It is also important to seek medical attention if there is blood in the vomit.

What is the cause of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

Experts are unsure of the exact cause of cyclic vomiting syndrome, but potential causes include genes and digestive problems. Hormonal imbalances and problems with the nervous system are other potential causes of cyclic vomiting syndrome.

Certain factors, including the following, may trigger a vomiting episode:

  • Allergies and colds
  • Stress or excitement, particularly in children
  • Anxiety and panic in adults
  • Consuming certain foods and drinks, such as alcohol, caffeine, cheese, and chocolate
  • Overeating or eating right before bed
  • Fasting
  • Excessive exercise or physical exhaustion
  • Hot temperatures
  • Motion sickness
  • Menstruating

How is cyclic vomiting syndrome treated?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome cannot be cured, but children tend to grow out of vomiting episodes by the time they reach adulthood. Treatment for cyclic vomiting syndrome focuses on alleviating symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

One of the following medications is typically used to treat cyclic vomiting syndrome:

  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Pain relievers
  • Antacid drugs
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Medications used to treat migraine

Cyclic vomiting syndrome can lead to complications, such as dehydration. In this case, a person may require treatment with intravenous fluids in a hospital setting.

Other Remedies for Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

Beyond medical treatment, certain lifestyle modifications can make cyclic vomiting syndrome more manageable. Getting adequate sleep and staying in a quiet, dark room when a vomiting episode begins can be helpful.

It is also important to find ways to reduce stress, since vomiting episodes can be brought on by stress or excitement. Eating small meals and reducing fat intake can also reduce the occurrence of vomiting episodes.

Symptoms Quotes:

“At the start of an episode, I feel extremely nauseous and start sweating soon after waking up in the morning.”

“I have flare ups where I will vomit without any apparent cause, but in between flare ups, I feel completely fine.”

“When my son suffers from a vomiting cycle, he says he feels dizzy, and he tends to get a headache.”

“My daughter goes through periods of days where she vomits repeatedly, and she usually complains of stomach pain and diarrhea along with the vomiting.”

Top Three Questions:

  1. Q: What causes vomiting during cyclic vomiting syndrome?
    While vomiting episodes tend to have no explanation, certain risk factors may trigger them. These include allergies, colds, triggering foods, overeating, fasting, motion sickness, menstruation, physical exhaustion, and hot temperatures. In children, stress and excitement can trigger an episode, whereas anxiety can lead to vomiting in adults.
  1. Q: Is there a treatment for cyclic vomiting syndrome?
    There are treatments that can manage the symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome. The typical course of treatment is some sort of medication, such as anti-nausea drugs, antacids, or medication to treat migraines. In severe cases, a person may require intravenous fluids to treat dehydration from vomiting.
  1. Q: Can cyclic vomiting syndrome be cured?
    While there is no established cure, most children do grow out of cyclic vomiting syndrome. This is why treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms.



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