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Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

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       Cyclic vomiting syndrome affects the upper GI tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and duodenum.

Cyclic vomiting syndrome, sometimes referred to as CVS, is an increasingly recognized disorder with sudden, repeated attacks—also called episodes—of severe nausea, vomiting, and physical exhaustion that occur with no apparent cause. The episodes can last from a few hours to several days. Episodes can be so severe that a person has to stay in bed for days, unable to go to school or work. A person may need treatment at an emergency room or a hospital during episodes. After an episode, a person usually experiences symptom-free periods lasting a few weeks to several months. To people who have the disorder, as well as their family members and friends, cyclic vomiting syndrome can be disruptive and frightening.

The disorder can affect a person for months, years, or decades. Each episode of cyclic vomiting syndrome is usually similar to previous ones, meaning that episodes tend to start at the same time of day, last the same length of time, and occur with the same symptoms and level of intensity.

What is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract?

The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus—the opening through which stool leaves the body. The body digests food using the movement of muscles in the GI tract, along with the release of hormones and enzymes. Cyclic vomiting syndrome affects the upper GI tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. The stomach slowly pumps the food and liquids through the duodenum and into the rest of the small intestine, which absorbs nutrients from food particles. This process is automatic and people are usually not aware of it, though people sometimes feel food in their esophagus when they swallow something too large, try to eat too quickly, or drink hot or cold liquids.

What causes cyclic vomiting syndrome?

The cause of cyclic vomiting syndrome is unknown. However, some experts believe that some possible problems with bodily functions may contribute to the cause, such as the following:

Specific conditions or events may trigger an episode of cyclic vomiting:

What are the symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome?

The main symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome are severe nausea and sudden vomiting lasting hours to days. A person may also experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Intensity of symptoms will vary as a person cycles through four distinct phases of an episode:

How is cyclic vomiting syndrome treated?

A health care provider may refer patients to a gastroenterologist for treatment.

People with cyclic vomiting syndrome should get plenty of rest and take medications to prevent a vomiting episode, stop an episode in progress, speed up recovery, or relieve associated symptoms.

The health care team tailors treatment to the symptoms experienced during each of the four cyclic vomiting syndrome phases:


If you have any questions or wish to schedule an appointment, please do not hesitate to call the office at (706) 548-0058. Remember that we usually require that you see a primary care physician (your family doctor or PCP) before we can schedule you. If you are having a medical emergency, get medical attention immediately at your nearest healthcare provider:

Athens Regional Medical Center: (706) 475-7000
St. Mary's Hospital: (706) 354-3000


This informational material is taken from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources.

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