Nausea, or stomach pain, is a common symptom for a variety of conditions and is defined as a feeling of sickness with an inclination to vomit. Often, nausea and vomiting will occur together, but they can occur separately as well. Nausea is not a disease in itself, but rather a non-specific symptom that can be caused by a number of things.
Causes of Nausea
There are over 700 possible causes for nausea. The most common causes include:
- Morning sickness: Stomach pain is an early symptom that occurs in over half of all pregnancies.
- Brain and spinal fluid: Any condition that is related to the brain or spinal fluid will usually have nausea as a symptom, such as migraines, brain tumors, head trauma, meningitis, and stroke.
- Abdominal problems: Conditions that affect your abdominal area are also likely to cause nausea as a symptom. A few examples include menstruation, constipation, pancreatitis, hepatitis, and kidney disease.
- Inner-ear problems: Conditions that affect your inner ear can cause vertigo, which is a sensation that things are spinning around you. This can also lead to stomach pain and vomiting. Motion sickness, labyrinthitis, and benign positional vertigo are all conditions that affect the inner ear.
- Psychological causes: Other things that are not related to your physical health can also lead to nausea, such as watching someone else vomit, anxiety, depression, and mental illnesses such as anorexia or bulimia.
- Cancer therapy: Nausea and vomiting can both be serious side effects for certain cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Stomach pain is not always something to be alarmed by, especially if it is accompanied by vomiting and goes away quickly—this means that your body is trying to get rid of whatever is making you feel ill. However, there are some conditions that can cause nausea and vomiting that should be taken very seriously. It is important to know when you should check with your doctor if you are experiencing nausea.
If you are also experiencing any of these additional symptoms along with the nausea and/or vomiting, see your doctor immediately: severe abdominal pain, blood in your vomit, vomiting for more than 24 hours, headache, stiff neck, dark urine or other signs of dehydration.
Treatments for Nausea
Antimetics are medications that were created with the specific purpose of alleviating nausea and vomiting. There are both prescription and over the counter antimetics that are available. Which antimetic is right for you will depend on what is causing your feelings of nausea.
For example, if your symptoms are being caused by something gastro-related, then bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate) may help. On the other hand, if your symptoms are being caused by inner-ear problems such as motion sickness, then antihistamines will be a better option. These can include dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), and meclizine hydrochloride—these medications are more effective if they are taken in anticipation or before the nausea begins to occur.
Most anti-nausea medications work better if they are taken regularly rather than occasionally, because then they are able to prevent more frequent bouts of nausea in the future.
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