What causes vomiting? 181 possible conditions

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What is Vomiting?

Vomiting is a forceful discharge of stomach contents. Vomiting can be a one-time event linked to something that doesn’t settle right in the stomach. Recurrent vomiting may be attributed to numerous underlying medical conditions. Frequent vomiting may also lead to dehydration. This is a potentially deadly condition when left untreated.

Causes of Vomiting

Vomiting is common. Eating too much food or alcohol can make a person throw up. This generally isn’t a cause for concern. Vomiting itself is not a condition, but rather a symptom of other conditions. Some common causes of this symptom include:

  • food poisoning
  • indigestion
  • infections (associated with bacterial and viral illnesses)
  • motion sickness
  • pregnancy-related morning sickness
  • headaches
  • prescription medications
  • anesthesia
  • chemotherapy
  • Crohn’s disease

Frequent vomiting not related to any of these causes may be a symptom of cyclic vomiting syndrome. This condition is characterized by vomiting for up to 10 days at a time. It is usually coupled with nausea and extreme lack of energy. It mainly occurs during childhood.

While it also affects adults, recurrent vomiting is often dismissed as being related to another condition. According to the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, up to 2,000 out of every 100,000 children experience cyclic vomiting syndrome (LHNCBC). When left untreated, this condition can cause vomiting episodes several times throughout the year.

Vomiting Emergencies

While vomiting is a common symptom, certain conditions warrant emergency medical attention. A doctor should be sought immediately if a person:

  • vomits for more than one day
  • suspects food poisoning
  • has a severe headache accompanied by stiff neck
  • has severe abdominal pain

Blood in the vomit is another reason to call emergency services. Also called hematemesis, vomiting blood refers to a situation in which a patient:

  • vomits large amounts of red blood
  • spits up dark blood
  • coughs up a substance that looks like coffee grounds

Throwing up small amounts of blood is not hematemesis. Vomiting blood is often caused by ulcers, ruptured blood vessels, and stomach bleeding. It can also be caused by some forms of cancer. This condition is often accompanied by dizziness. A person who vomits blood should call a doctor immediately.

Complications of Vomiting

Dehydration is the most common vomiting related complication. When you throw up, your stomach not only expels food, you also lose fluids. Dehydration can cause:

  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • dark urine
  • decreased urination

This complication is especially serious in infants and young children who vomit. This is because younger children have less fluid to sustain themselves due to smaller body mass. Parents whose children show symptoms of dehydration should talk to a pediatrician immediately.

Malnutrition is another complication of vomiting. Failure to keep down solid foods causes the body to gradually lose nutrients. People experiencing excessive fatigue and weakness related to frequent vomiting should seek medical attention.

Vomiting Treatments

Generally, treatment for vomiting addresses the underlying cause. Treatment is not necessary for throwing up once in a while. Hydration is important, even if a patient vomits only once. Drinking clear liquids is recommended, preferably those containing electrolytes. These help provide essential nutrients lost through vomiting. Avoiding food until six hours after a person has finished vomiting is also recommended. Solid foods can irritate a sensitive stomach, increasing the chances of throwing up.

For frequent vomiting, a doctor might prescribe antiemetic drugs. These medications help to reduce episodes of throwing up. Alternative remedies, such as ginger, bergamot, and lemongrass oil may also help. Use of supplements should be authorized by a doctor as they may cause drug interactions.

Dietary changes can also help recurrent vomiting. These are especially helpful for morning sickness. Foods that help to alleviate vomiting include:

  • non-greasy foods
  • smaller meals throughout the day
  • saltine crackers to ward off nausea
  • ginger products, such as ginger ale

Preventing Vomiting

Treatment plans are the best course of action for related medical conditions. Triggers of vomiting can vary between patients. These may include:

  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • eating too much food
  • migraines
  • exercising after eating
  • stress
  • hot or spicy foods
  • lack of sleep

Adopting better lifestyle habits can help prevent vomiting episodes. While the occasional flu virus cannot be avoided, knowing how to treat recurrent vomiting can help a person avoid further health complications.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Food Poisoning

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Food poisoning occurs when you consume foods contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Symptoms are usually uncomfortable but not severe. Serious reactions can be life threatening and require medical treatment.

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2

Indigestion

The feeling of being too full, bloating, heartburn, gas, and nausea are signs of indigestion.

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3

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, is caused by a number of different viruses. Its symptoms usually last for two to three days.

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4

Types of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux symptoms are caused when stomach contents flow up from the stomach back into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, stomach pain, and burping.

Read more »

5

Yellow Skin (Jaundice)

Jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes and can indicate a serious problem with liver, gallbladder, or pancreas function.

Read more »

6

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Damage to the liver from excessive drinking can lead to ALD. Years of alcohol abuse cause the liver to become inflamed and swollen. This damage can also cause scarring known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final stage o...

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7

Gastritis

Gastritis is acute or chronic inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach. It's often caused by the bacterium H. pylori, but can also be the result of excessive NSAID, alcohol, or cocaine consumption.

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8

Stomach Ulcer

Stomach ulcers are painful sores in the stomach lining or small intestine. They occur when the mucus that protects the stomach from digestive juices is reduced. They are curable but can become severe if not treated.

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9

Gallstones

Gallstones are hard deposits in the gallbladder that can eventually block the exiting bile ducts. Abdominal pain, fever, itchy skin, and jaundice are possible symptoms.

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10

Appendicitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix, which can be fatal if left untreated. The telltale sign is pain that usually starts as mild cramping, especially on the right side, and becomes more severe over time.

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11

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is a sensation of wooziness. It usually occurs when someone is traveling by car, boat, plane, or train.

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12

Food Allergy Basics

Food allergies are overblown responses by the immune system to foods that aren't typically harmful - like eggs and peanuts. Continue reading and learn more about food allergies, and how to prevent or treat sever...

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13

Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Injuries to your brain, skull, or scalp are all types of head injury. A head injury may be mild or severe depending on what caused it. Some injuries produce bleeding within your skull. Others cause damage on the outsid...

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14

Peptic Ulcer

Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine as a result of erosion from stomach acids. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem, and it is estimated tha...

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15

Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal obstruction occurs when there is a blockage of your small or large intestine. The blockage prevents the passage of fluid or digested food. The blockage may be partial or total.There are many potential cause...

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16

Stomach Cancer (Gastric Adenocarcinoma)

Gastric cancer, also known as gastric adenocarcinoma, is a cancer that forms inside of the stomach. It is the most common type of stomach cancer worldwide, and most commonly affects men over the age of 40.

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17

Pregnancy

Pregnancy occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg after it is released from the ovary. An egg enters one of the fallopian tubes where it may be fertilized. The egg then enters the uterus where implantation occurs...

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18

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is severe scarring of the liver and poor liver function seen at the end of chronic liver disease. The scarring is most often caused by long-term exposure to toxins such as alcohol or viral infections. Th...

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19

Meningitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. This is the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may occur when fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected. The most common causes of meningiti...

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20

Encephalitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue. Most cases are caused by viral infections. In rare cases it can also be caused by bacteria.There are two main types of encephalitis-primary and secondary. Primar...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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