Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments


Cyclic vomiting syndrome or cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that causes recurrent episodes of nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion.

These symptoms come from no apparent causes.

Episodes may last from a few hours to several days. Sometimes episodes may be so severe that you must have treatment at an emergency room or a hospital. The episodes occurring in the same person are similar, which means his or her symptoms, time of day, frequency, severity, and length of each episode of CVS are usually the same. However, the condition varies from person to person.

This syndrome can affect all groups of people at any age. But CVS often occurs in children between the age of 3 and 7.

About 3 of every 100,000 children are diagnosed with CVS every year.


The underlying cause of CVS hasn’t been identified. Genes, digestive difficulties, nervous system problems and hormone imbalances are possible factors contributing to CVS.

Besides, this condition may be triggered by:

  • Colds, allergies or sinus problems
  • Emotional stress or excitement, especially in children
  • Anxiety or panic attacks, especially in adults
  • Foods, such as caffeine, chocolate or cheese
  • Overeating, eating right before going to bed or fasting
  • Hot weather
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Exercising too much
  • Menstruation
  • Motion sickness


In addition to episodes of nausea, vomiting
and exhaustion, you may also experience one or more of the following:

  • Retching—trying to vomit but having nothing come out of your mouth, also called dry vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Abnormal drowsiness
  • Pale skin
  • Headaches
  • Lack of appetite
  • Not wanting to talk
  • Drooling or spitting
  • Extreme thirst
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever


Since vomiting is a symptom of many
conditions, it is hard to diagnose cyclic vomiting syndrome. Doctors have to
rule out other conditions, such as:

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
  • Volvulus or malrotation (twisting of the intestine).
  • UPJ obstruction (a urinary blockage at the point where one of the
    kidneys attaches to one of the tubes to the bladder [ureters]).
  • A number of different metabolic disorders.

To make a diagnosis of CVS, your doctor
will first ask about your medical and family history and conduct a physical
exam to:

  • Examine your body.
  • Check your abdomen for unusual sounds, tenderness, or pain.
  • Check your nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, and balance.

He or she may also want to know the pattern of your symptoms which can help make a diagnosis. After these, your doctor may order metabolic and liver function tests in addition to running tests on the blood and urine. Any of the following may also be recommended:

  • Abdominal ultrasound.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract X-ray series.
  • Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Upper GI endoscopy.
  • Gastric emptying test.


No cure for CVS is available, but you may control
the sign or symptoms with:

  • Anti-nausea drugs.
  • Pain-relieving medications.
  • Medications that suppress stomach acid.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Anti-seizure medications.

The same types of medications used for migraines sometimes are beneficial as well. They are usually recommended for people whose episodes are frequent and long lasting, or for people with a family history of migraine.

Keywords: cyclic vomiting syndrome; cyclical vomiting syndrome; CVS.

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