Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

As the title suggests recurring symptoms or cyclical attacks of pain in the abdomen accompanied by severe nausea, vomiting, headaches and/or migraine and fatigue are the characteristics of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome. During these attacks the affected person may vomit numerous times within an hour and become quite weak. These episodes may recur four to twelve times a year, more or less depending on severity, and last between one hour and approximately ten days.

Who can get CVS?

Children between the ages of three to seven are particularly vulnerable to developing Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome. Although people can develop the Syndrome at any age, it is more common for the disorder to develop in childhood and persist through teenage years into adulthood. In adults the condition is thought to manifest as a migraine syndrome.

How do you get CVS?

A range of factors can cause Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, which include:

  • Infections.
  • Genetics – migraine.
  • Allergies.
  • Sudden changes in temperature: very high or low temperatures.
  • Lack of sleep or insomnia.
  • Menstruation.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Intolerance to certain foods or medications.
  • Fasting for long lengths of time.
  • Overexertion or injury.
  • Intense emotional instability, such as excitement, stress, fear or anger.

Any one or more of these causes may trigger bouts of Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome.

How do you know if you have CVS?

Symptoms of CVS may include any of the following:

  • Vomiting and intense nausea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Dehydration and weakness / exhaustion.
  • Headaches.
  • Pale complexion.
  • Light sensitivity (photophobia).
  • Sound sensitivity (phonophobia).

As other illnesses also share many of these symptoms you will have to be examined and possibly undergo certain tests to determine whether you have CVS.

In between CVS episodes, when affected people are not vomiting or experiencing symptoms as an attack, they may still be experiencing pain and digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux. CVS Syndrome can affect the sufferer’s daily living function, which may involve fainting and mental health conditions, such as panic/anxiety disorders and depression. Discussing the symptoms with a doctor will help identify the cause and help them decide upon the best course of treatment.

How is CVS diagnosed?

Due to the fact that Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome is a set of characteristic symptoms with a range of potential causes, a specific diagnostic test for CVS does not exist. Other diseases and disorders can present similar symptoms, so medical examination is necessary to determine if there is a specific cause first. Diseases that are gastrointestinal, metabolic, biochemical, autoimmune or affecting the central nervous system structure may manifest with similar symptoms. In the absence of a diagnosis or specific cause the result may point to CVS.

Medical practitioners will refer to the patient’s history and patterns of nausea with vomiting, but will also study the intervals in the patient’s history when they are without symptoms. Episodes during attacks will be monitored to determine trigger and impact on circulatory fluids, blood sugar levels and acidic and electrolytic function.

How is Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome treated?

Without an identified cause CVS treatment is challenging and is recommended on a case-by-case basis. The following methods of treatment may be used to address the symptoms:

  • Medications, such as morphine or painkillers.
  • Abortive Therapy: using antiemetic medications such as Zofran and Marinol to prevent attacks.
  • Intravenous fluids: to restore electrolytic, acid and salt balance.

With the cause of CVS not being identified, treatments for symptoms may be on-going. Determining main triggers or causes of CVS can help patients to recover. However, further research is necessary in both diagnostics and treatments.

What can you do to prevent Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome?

CVS, if caused by an infection or allergy, is treatable. Migraine related CVS is also treatable, as is insomnia or lack of sleep. Treatments exist nowadays to manage menstruation related CVS. Prevention can be made by:

  • Early medical intervention for symptoms and injuries.
  • Using medications for infections, allergies, migraine and insomnia as needed.
  • Avoiding areas with sudden temperature fluctuations.
  • Abstaining from alcohol or recreational drug use.
  • Monitoring foods and avoiding trigger-foods.
  • Not fasting for long periods.
  • Staying calm, keeping stress-levels low, being aware and balancing emotions.
  • Following a balanced lifestyle without overexertion.
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