Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a devastating and debilitating disorder of children and adults, characterized by recurrent, prolonged attacks of severe nausea, vomiting and extreme weakness with no apparent cause. Vomiting occurs at frequent intervals for hours or days. Episodes tend to be similar in symptoms and duration. Between episodes, people with this disorder have normal health.
CVS has a tremendous impact on people’s lives. People with this disorder may be unable to work, attend school or even eat. They also face a risk of dehydration following episodes of continuous vomiting.
Experts in CVSThe Cyclic Vomiting Clinic at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin, created in 2006, is one of only a few in the United States to provide diagnosis and treatment for adults with CVS. The clinic is staffed by gastroenterologists with expertise in diagnosing and treating CVS. Other team members include specialists in pain management, psychiatry and neurology. Many adults with CVS have a strong history of migraine headaches.
While CVS cannot be cured, it is treatable. Treatment includes education on avoiding CVS triggers, medications to take at the onset or during an episode, and preventive therapy (using an antidepressant medication). For many people, these treatments have made the difference between living with a disabling disorder and enjoying life again.
SymptomsCVS causes relentless nausea with repeated bouts of vomiting or retching. Affected people are often pale, lethargic and unable to talk. They may experience intense abdominal pain and headache, a low-grade fever and diarrhea. Symptoms may be triggered by stress, excitement, infections or a woman’s menstrual period. Some people have no apparent triggers.
Diagnosis is made by careful review of a person’s medical history, and a physical exam and lab studies to rule out other diseases that may cause vomiting. There is often a strong family history of migraine headaches on the side of the patient’s mother. In adults, episodes tend to occur less often than they do in children, but they last longer.
CVS is not well-recognized as a disorder and is often misdiagnosed as food poisoning or stomach flu. Some people may go for years without a correct diagnosis. The disorder is believed to be underdiagnosed.
Learn more about the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Program at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Online resources are also available at the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association
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Author: Marla Fraunfelder
Date: Oct. 17, 2007
|Medical Reviewer: ||Kia Saeian, MD, MSC, EPi, FAGG|
|Medical College of Wisconsin gastroenterologist/hepatologist|
Last Review Date: June 18, 2013
Online Editor(s): Tim Gehr