Cyclic vomiting syndrome

Ever heard of it? No? That's because you probably never even knew it existed. This might be due to the fact that the symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome can be similar to those you see in food poisoning or a stomach bug, like nausea and vomiting.  The difference is, there are no diagnostic tests to see if you have cyclic vomiting, and the cause of this syndrome is still unknown.

The rare disorder is characterized by severe nausea or uncontrollable vomiting.  Nausea and vomiting can last from a few hours to a few days, and occur in periodic episodes.  So there will be incidences of the vomiting and nausea, followed by longer periods where there are no symptoms experienced at all. 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.


What is interesting about cyclic vomiting syndrome is that the vomiting spells don’t have a clear cause.  It can be very difficult to manage an illness when you are unsure of the cause and how it can be cured, stopped or avoided. Some research has linked the disorder with migraines, but it is unclear if this is a cause. 

Vomiting is a symptoms of many things, from food poisoning to stress – so pinpointing it as part of this chronic disorder is not easy.  It is the cyclical and repetitive nature of the syndrome which identifies it.  Vomiting episodes tend to be similar to one another, that is, starting around the same time of day, with similar severity and duration to each other. Treatment of cyclic vomiting syndrome is really just about treating the symptoms.  Sometimes making lifestyle changes or taking anti-nausea medications can help as well. 

Symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome consist of:

●       Severe vomiting that multiple times within an hour, for up to a few days or almost a week

●       Three or more separate vomiting episodes within the year that do not have a clear or apparent cause

Other symptoms during a vomiting episode may include:

●       Abdominal pain

●       Diarrhea

●       Fever

●       Dizziness

●       Light sensitivity

Identifying the triggers for cyclic vomiting syndrome could help manage the chronic disorder.  By knowing what might initiate an episode, those suffering from severe vomiting could potentially avoid these triggers and lessen the severity of an episode.  Here are a few triggers sufferers of cyclic vomiting syndrome might benefit from avoiding:

●       Colds, allergies or sinus problems

●       Emotional stress

●       Anxiety or panic attacks

●       Certain foods (discover through experience)

●       Overeating

●       Eating too soon before bedtime

●       Heat

●       Physical exhaustion

●       Menstruation

●       Motion sickness

Continued vomiting can have some pretty serious complications. Which is why trying to avoid the triggers is so important. Some of these complications include aspiration of the vomit to your lungs, damage to the enamel of your teeth, and the wearing away of your esophagus.  Continued vomiting can also cause dehydration and electrolyte loss. In cases of severe dehydration, this water loss can be life threatening. Here’s what to look for:

●       Increased thirst

●       Weakness

●       Dry mouth

●       Dizziness

●       Lessened urination

●       Paleness

●       Exhaustion

●       Heart palpitations