Cyclic vomiting syndrome: It’s as terrible as it sounds

Whether it was the latest stomach bug or a bout of food poisoning, most of us are unfortunate enough to have had at least one epic vomiting episode. And if you’re like me, you’re probably queasy just thinking about it. For most of us, vomiting lasts a day or two and might be followed by a few days of nausea, but then we move on with our lives.

For people with a disorder called cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), unpredictable episodes of severe vomiting can go on for days and recur at least multiple times a year, sometimes as often as several times a month. In 1882, Dr. Samuel Gee first noticed the syndrome in children 4 to 8 years old, and for years afterward it was thought to primarily affect children, but recent research shows that it may be just as common among adults.


Since vomiting can have many causes, a diagnosis of CVS can be difficult, and patients often undergo invasive and ineffective treatments and diagnostic procedures before other causes are ruled out. In one study of 41 adults, 16 patients had surgery to try to cure their vomiting episodes, and it wasn’t effective in a single case. Patients can be bedridden for days, and the same study found that 32 percent of study participants were completely disabled and needed financial support.

Though the cause of cyclic vomiting syndrome is unknown, it’s thought to be related to migraines, and children who have a family history of migraines are at greater risk. Some children are even fortunate enough to find their vomiting…

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