Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is an uncommon, chronic disorder that is marked by recurring attacks of intense nausea and uncontrolled vomiting. It can manifest at any age, but it usually appears in young children – the typical age of diagnosis is between 3-7 years old.
A person with CVS may vomit 10 or more times per hour during an episode, and the duration of an episode may last from a few hours to 10 days. There is no way to predict outbreaks, but in between episodes the sufferer is usually relatively normal and healthy.
Diagnosis of CVS
There are no known factors that contribute to the development of the disease. However, there are established criteria to aid in diagnosis, including:
- Three or more periods of acute, intense, and unrelenting vomiting that last hours to weeks
- Asymptomatic periods that last from weeks to months
- Repeating cycles of intense nausea and vomiting followed by periods of reduced symptoms, until the cycle begins again
- Exclusion of metabolic, gastrointestinal, or central nervous system disease
There are additional factors that can contribute to the illness, as researchers have found a strong correlation between migraines and CVS. Most patients with CVS also have a familial tie to migraines – in fact, CVS is often referred to as abdominal migraine.
Symptoms of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
The most common symptoms of CVS are:
- Severe and frequent vomiting
- Severe nausea
- Unexplainable sweating
- Pain in the abdomen
- Frequent gagging
- Sensitivity to light
A doctor will first rule out other health conditions that share one or more of these symptoms. Tests and scans may be run to help the physician make a firm diagnosis.
Can Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Be Treated?
Your doctor will likely give you instructions and a prescription to try to prevent future CVS attacks, such as:
- Anti-nausea medication
- Anti-seizure medication (which helps many patients with this disorder)
- Medicine for pain relief
- Stomach-acid reducers
- Migraine or headache medication
It is also very important that the patient receive plenty of fluids to replace the fluids lost from vomiting. There is a significant danger of dehydration with this condition.
Treatment of an attack of cyclic vomiting syndrome depends on the severity and duration of the current episode being treated. At this point, the focus is on maintaining the patient’s salt and fluid levels through intravenous fluids.
Potent anti-nausea drugs have found success in shortening an attack or preventing an attack from getting worse. Lifestyle changes such as extended rest and a reduction of stressors are often recommended.
Complications from CVS
The most common complication from CVS is dehydration. Esophagitis can also occur from the presence of stomach acids in the throat, and the frequent exposure of stomach acids to the teeth can cause dental problems.
Depression is a serious concern for people with CVS because the person cannot leave the house during a severe attack. Even taking a tiny sip of water can set off more vomiting.
Gastroenterologists in Greater Cleveland
If you or a loved one is wracked by mysterious bouts of intense nausea and vomiting for no apparent reason, seek help immediately. Cyclic vomiting syndrome requires medical intervention.