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What is Nausea? Print E-mail
Written by Glenn Rosenberg   
Thursday, 29 October 2009

Nausea is a feeling of queasiness in the stomach. It is usually associated with the feeling that one is going to throw up, or vomit.

What is going on in the body?

Nausea is a feeling that almost everyone has had at some point in their lives. It can be caused by many different conditions, ranging from pregnancy or exercising too much to infection or cancer. Determining the cause of nausea is not always easy.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The list of conditions that can cause nausea is very long. It is best broken down into general categories. These include:
- an infection in the digestive tract, such as food poisoning
- an infection in another part of the body, such as the flu or an ear infection known as acute otitis media
- pregnancy
- alcohol
- gastroesophageal reflux
- peptic ulcers
- problems with balance and equilibrium, such as motion sickness
- anxiety and other psychological conditions
- certain drugs, such as antibiotics, narcotics, cancer chemotherapy, oral contraceptives, and pain medications
- problems in the abdomen, such as appendicitis, gallbladder disease, gallstones, kidney stones, hepatitis, pancreatitis, or bowel inflammation
- a blockage in the stomach, bowels, or esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal atresia is an example of this type of blockage.
- systemwide conditions, such as poorly controlled diabetes, headaches, cancer, chronic renal failure, heart attacks, being overly tired, overexerting oneself, and hormone or salt imbalances
- birth defects in the digestive tract, such as a poorly formed stomach or intestine. These may include duodenal atresia, pyloric stenosis or imperforate anus.

Other causes are possible. In some cases, no cause can be found.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment is directed at the underlying cause. For example, if the cause is gastroesophageal reflux, medications can be given to treat the reflux. If the cause is appendicitis, surgery is needed to remove the appendix. Medications are also available to treat nausea if the cause cannot be treated or avoided. For example, people who need chemotherapy to treat cancer are often given drugs to reduce nausea before chemotherapy begins.

Some drugs that may help reduce nausea are available over-the-counter, such as Pepto-Bismol or diphenhydramine. Others are more powerful, such as ondansetron or dronabinol, and require a prescription.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

All medications have possible side effects. For example, diphenhydramine makes many people sleepy. Pepto-Bismol can turn the stools black. Other drugs can cause allergic reactions, diarrhea, or other side effects. Specific side effects depend on the medications used. Any surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and reactions to pain medications.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
If the underlying cause can be found and treated, the nausea should stop. If the cause cannot be found or cannot be treated, drugs to reduce nausea may help. For example, some people may need narcotics to control pain, but the narcotics make them nauseous. In this case, drugs to treat nausea can be given at the same time as the pain medications.

How is the condition monitored?
People with nausea can monitor it themselves as well as how it responds to treatment. The underlying cause of nausea may need further monitoring and treatment.


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