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Nausea is an unpleasant sensation of discomfort or unease in the stomach (queasy stomach), accompanied by an urge to vomit. Nausea often precedes vomiting.Nausea is not a disease in itself1, but rather a non-specific symptom, i.e. there are several possible causes, including motion sickness, stomach infection, migraine, certain odors, food poisoning, gallbladder disease, very intense pain, early pregnancy, indigestion, certain viruses, chemical toxins and emotional stress (fear).
This Medical News Today article explains the possible causes of nausea. As well as its links to:
At the end of the article there is a video showing how a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon uses acupuncture to treat patients with nausea and vomiting after surgery.
Nausea is not usually due to anything serious. However, there are circumstances when you should check with your doctor.
According to DiagnosisPro, there are over 700 causes of nausea2, and those are just due to poisoning! This article focuses on the most common causes.
Morning sickness, also known as nausea gravidarum, refers to nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Medical News Today has a detailed article on morning sickness, which affects more than half of all pregnancies.
Causes of nausea are nearly always due to problems in any of these three parts of the body4: 1. The brain and spinal fluid. 2. The pelvic and abdominal organs. 3. The inner ear.
Many diseases and conditions related to the brain or spinal fluid have nausea as one of their many symptoms, including:
The most common pelvic/abdominal diseases and conditions that have nausea as one of their symptoms are:
Patients with problems with their inner ear may experience nausea, as well as vertigo - a sensation of things moving around you or spinning. Inner-ear conditions include:
Several psychological factors can induce nausea. Some people find that they experience nausea just by watching somebody else vomiting.
Medical students may experience nausea, dizziness and even fainting when witnessing an autopsy for the first time.
The following mental illnesses/conditions usually have nausea as one of their symptoms:
A Norwegian study involving more than 62,000 people found that nausea, which affects about 12% of people in the community, is a common symptom of anxiety and depression6.
Tone Tangen Haug, M.D., Ph.D., of Haukeland University Hospital in Norway and team reported in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry that patients with anxiety and depression frequently present with gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and abdominal discomfort as their main problem when visiting the doctor.
The researchers wrote "Functional gastrointestinal disorders are strongly related to anxiety and depressive disorders with a lifetime prevalence of 80-90% in samples from clinics of gastroenterology."
Nausea and vomiting, which are serious side effects of cancer therapy, need to be controlled to maintain both the patient's treatment and quality of life8.
The most common causes of nausea for cancer patients are:
Nausea may also be caused by a tumor blocking the bowel.
The following factors may increase a cancer patient's risk of developing nausea and vomiting:
In most cases nausea is a temporary symptom that goes away on its own. Do not be alarmed if it is accompanied by vomiting; it means that your body is trying to get rid of whatever made you feel ill.
However, sometimes nausea (and vomiting) may be a sign of an underlying disease or something serious, such as a blockage or kidney stones3.
You should check with your doctor1 if:
Children with nausea and vomiting have a higher risk of dehydration than adults, because they do not usually detect or communicate the symptoms.
If your child has nausea, vomiting, dry lips, dry mouth, sunken eyes, is breathing rapidly and has an accelerated heart beat, he or she is probably dehydrated and should be seen by a doctor. Additional signs include infrequent urination and a sunken fontanelle (the soft area on top of the infant's head).
Medications for the treatment of nausea and/or vomiting are called antiemetics. There are several OTC (over-the-counter, no prescription required) antiemetics.
This medication may help in cases of gastroenteritis, stomach upset and also diarrhea. Examples of brand names include Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate.
If you are allergic to aspirin or other salicylate medicines you should not take bismuth subsalicylate. Children under 12 years of age should not take bismuth subsalicylate, and neither should adolescents (aged 12 to 18) who have chickenpox or the flu.
Side effects are rare, but may affect older adults or patients with underlying health problems. There is a small risk of darkened stools or tongue, constipation and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Antihistamines dull the inner ear's ability to sense motion, and may alleviate symptoms of nausea caused by motion sickness. Examples include dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine hydrochloride (Dramamine Less Drowsy). They work best if taken beforehand, e.g. if you get car sick, take it just before your trip10.
If you are taking sedatives, muscle relaxants or sleeping pills, check with your doctor before taking antihistamines.
Side effects may include drowsiness/sleepiness, dry eyes, or dry mouth.
Make sure you read the directions on the drug facts label and follow the instructions regarding dosage and how often you should take the medication. If you are not sure talk to the pharmacist or your doctor.
Many of the causes of nausea (and vomiting) are outside the patient's control. However, the following self-care tips offered by the Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania, Australia, may help you feel better7:
Post-operative nausea - nausea after a surgical procedure - is common. In this video by the Mayo Clinic, a neurosurgeon uses acupuncture to help patients who suffer from nausea and vomiting after several types of operations.
Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
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Nordqvist, Christian. "What is nausea?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 1 Dec. 2013. Web.
7 Mar. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269511>
Nordqvist, C. (2013, December 1). "What is nausea?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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