Intractable vomiting

What is cyclic vomiting syndrome?

Fact Checked

Cyclic vomiting syndrome among children is a disorder described as having repeated episodes of severe nausea, vomiting and exhaustion. There is no evident cause for these symptoms.

Every episode can last for a few hours up to several days. The attacks can be severe that the individual is bedridden or required to be taken to the emergency room. Oftentimes, the symptoms start early in the morning. After an episode, the individual is free from symptoms and returns to normal health.

Repeated episodes of severe nausea, retching and vomiting is an indication.

Both females and men of any age can develop the condition. It can last for months, years or decades. Nevertheless, the symptoms do not arise each day. The episodes can occur from several times in a year to several times in a month. The symptoms, frequency, time of day, length and severity of every episode is generally the same for one individual.


Some of the indications of cyclic vomiting syndrome include the following:

  • Repeated episodes of severe nausea, retching and vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Gagging or heaving
  • Abdominal pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Intense headaches
  • Excessive thirst
  • Spitting or drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Low-grade fever

Who are at risk?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is more prevalent among children than adults. In most cases, the condition arises between the ages of 3-7. Nevertheless, the condition can start at any age from infancy up to old age.

What are the causes?

There is no precise cause for cyclic vomiting syndrome, but the mitochondria in the cells might play a role. The mitochondria serve as the digestive system of the cells which takes in nutrients and break them down to create energy.

The mitochondrial DNA might become abnormal due to certain ailments, exposure to toxins or drugs and genetic ailments inherited from the mother. Oftentimes, tests indicate subtle changes in the mitochondrial function and a precise diagnosis is not determined. The condition might also occur frequently in an individual with a parent with migraines.

The following might also play a role such as:

  • Migraine headaches that arise up to 80% of children and 25% in adults with the syndrome
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Issues with how food travels via the GI system
  • Issues with the spinal cord, brain or nervous system control over the GI tract responses

Management of cyclic vomiting syndrome

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is managed with abortive and preventive therapy.

  • For abortive therapy, it is started at the time of an episode and meant to reduce the intensity or stop an episode once it starts.
  • Preventive therapy is utilized to stop attacks from occurring or to reduce the severity, length or frequency of the attacks.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.