Nausea is the feeling that you’re going to throw up. It’s not a condition itself, but usually a sign of another issue. Many conditions can cause nausea. Most, but not all, are digestive issues.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what can cause ongoing nausea, as well as treatments you can try, and when it’s important to get medical care.
Constant, or chronic, nausea lasts longer than a month. During this time, it may come and go, and may only happen at certain times of the day.
In other cases, you may feel nauseous almost all the time. Constant nausea may also get worse over time, as in the case of gastroesophageal reflux.
Acute nausea is nausea that lasts for less than one month. In many cases, it only lasts a few days. Infections such as gastroenteritis are common causes of acute nausea.
Both constant and acute nausea may lead to vomiting, but not always. Nausea may be the only symptom you have, or it may be one of many symptoms.
The Difference Between acute and chronic nausea
- Acute nausea lasts less than one month. In most cases, it only lasts a few days.
- Chronic nausea lasts longer than a month. During this time it may come and go, and be mild or severe.
It’s often difficult to diagnose the cause of constant nausea. However, the causes can often be differentiated by accompanying symptoms or if something affects the level of nausea.
Some of the most common causes of chronic nausea include:
Nausea during pregnancy isn’t harmful to your baby. It often starts to go away by week 16 of pregnancy.
Nausea during pregnancy is usually due to hormonal changes. You’re more likely to have morning sickness if you:
- are carrying multiples
- had morning sickness in a past pregnancy
- have migraine
- get motion sickness
- have obesity
- are having your first pregnancy
In rare cases, women can develop a type of severe morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition can cause severe dehydration and weight loss. It may require hospitalization and treatment with IV fluids.
The most common symptom of GERD is regular heartburn, although not everyone with GERD gets heartburn. Other symptoms include:
- pain in your chest or upper abdomen
- breathing problems, like a constant cough or asthma
- a sour or bitter taste at the back of your mouth
- bad breath
- problems swallowing
- wearing of tooth enamel
Risk factors for GERD include:
Pancreatitis is inflammation in your pancreas — an organ that secretes enzymes to help you digest your food. You can have acute pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis. The acute kind lasts for a few days, but chronic pancreatitis can last for years.
Symptoms of pancreatitis include:
- upper abdominal pain, which may radiate to your back or get worse after eating
- unintentional weight loss
- oily stools, in chronic pancreatitis
- rapid pulse, in acute pancreatitis
Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal movement of muscles in your stomach. Usually, strong muscle contractions move food forward through your digestive tract. Gastroparesis slows down these contractions, which keeps your stomach from emptying properly.
The cause of gastroparesis isn’t always known, but it’s usually due to damage to the vagus nerve, which controls your stomach muscles. It’s more common in women.
Gastroparesis often doesn’t cause any symptoms. When it does, symptoms typically include:
Some factors that may increase your risk for gastroparesis include:
Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types in the United States. Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Hepatitis A and E are usually caused by contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C, and D are usually caused by contact with infected bodily fluids, such as blood or feces.
Other symptoms of hepatitis include:
Most people have anxiety once in a while, and it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit queasy if you’re nervous or stressed.
Some types of anxiety, though, can be long-lasting and interfere with daily life. Although anxiety disorders are often thought of as affecting emotions, they can cause physical symptoms too, like constant nausea. Other symptoms may include:
- rapid breathing
- increased heart rate
- problems concentrating or focusing
- difficulty sleeping
According to Mayo Clinic, about 75 percent of people with peptic ulcers have no symptoms. Stomach pain, which may get worse between meals and at night, is the most common symptom. Other symptoms include:
- feeling uncomfortably full
- stomach issues after eating fatty food
Your gallbladder is an organ that releases bile into your small intestine. Bile is a digestive fluid that helps to break down fat from the food you eat.
Other symptoms include:
Most conditions that cause chronic nausea require medical treatment.
However, there are steps you can take to help relieve nausea at home before seeing a doctor.
Tips for easing nausea at home
- Eat small meals every couple of hours, and be sure to eat and drink slowly. An empty stomach can make nausea worse.
- Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids. This can include water, decaffeinated herbal and iced teas, seltzer, clear juices, or coconut water.
- Avoid caffeinated foods and drinks.
- Drink beverages with ginger or chamomile, which may help settle your stomach.
- Eat cool or cold foods that don’t have much odor, such as chilled fruit, frozen popsicles, applesauce, or yogurt.
- Eat bland food, such as saltine crackers, rice, toast, potatoes, plain noodles, or broths.
- Avoid spicy, fatty, and fried foods that can upset your stomach.
- Avoid activity right after eating.
- Take over-the-counter medication such as antacids or Pepto Bismol.
If your nausea has lasted more than a month, it’s important that you see your doctor. Even if your nausea isn’t caused by a more serious condition, your doctor will likely be able to prescribe the right type of treatment for you.
See your doctor if your nausea hasn’t lasted long, but:
- it interferes with your daily life
- you also have unexplained weight loss
- you have any new symptoms in addition to nausea
Seek care immediately if you have nausea and:
- sudden severe headache
- sudden, severe abdominal pain
- chest pain
- blurred vision
- a high fever
- green or bloody vomit
Treatment for your nausea will depend on the underlying cause.
Chronic nausea can be mild, but it can also disrupt your life. Constant nausea is often a symptom of an underlying condition, such as pregnancy or a digestive issue.
If you’ve had ongoing nausea for more than a month, be sure to follow up with your doctor. You can work together to determine the best treatment plan for your nausea and any other symptoms you may be having.