What is Nausea?


Nausea is a word derived from Latin word ‘nausea’ and from Greek ‘nausie’. It is a feeling related with stomach content. It can be described as a sensation of uneasy and discomfort in the upper portion of the stomach.

image by corbis
image by corbis

It always has a tendency of urgency to vomit. Qualm is the term to explain an attack of nausea. The most common cause of nausea is in pregnancy and gastroenteritis or food poisoning.

Some causes are unknown so far and it is believed that as many as seven hundred causes are identified so far. But often it occurs as a result of side effect of certain medications. Generally  several medications are available to improve the symptoms of nausea.

Commonly metoclopramide, ondansetron and dimenhydrinate are used to improve this condition. The above explanations some times not applicable and in some cases the condition of nausea may have real vomiting.

This type of nausea is always related with early stage of pregnancy in which the vomiting occurs after having the urge to vomit. In pregnancy it is called morning sickness and this condition in pregnancy arises because of the increased level of hormones. However this nausea is not at all a disease always. It is a warning symptom for several underlying conditions. It appears in almost in all diseases including organic and functional diseases and in infectious diseases also. Good examples are: pregnancy, intestinal diseases including infectious and obstructive diseases, travel related diseases, food allergy and poisoning, brain diseases including tumors and cancers.

image by corbis
image by corbis

In some occasions it appears to be a natural mechanism to relieve the unwanted conditions. Example is over eating. When a person over eats, nausea resulting in vomiting to relieve the discomfort of overload to stomach. Nausea may result in vomiting or it may urge to vomit and eventually there is no vomiting at all. Nausea may be short lived or prolonged. In prolonged instances it is a debilitating health symptom. The origin of nausea may by physical or psychological.

In food poisoning symptom appears within one to six hours after the contaminated food is taken to stomach and the toxins are responsible which are produced by the bacteria.

This nausea long lasts for one to two days. Medications are able to potentially cause nausea. Chemotherapy and anesthetic drugs are most common medications that cause nausea. Almost 80 percent of the pregnant women experience to have nausea in their early stage or in first trimester of pregnancy and some women with severe form requires treatment with medicines like ondansetron.

image by corbis
image by corbis

Most of the conditions that causes nausea are mild and it requires no treatment and some conditions that causes nausea are potentially very serious. Example diabetic ketoacidosis, appendicitis, hepatitis and bowel obstructive diseases. Often nausea requires no investigation except in chronic or prolonged type of nausea like in obstructive intestinal or brain tumors.

The serious complication of nausea is dehydration and it commonly occurs in conditions like diarrhea. In these cases oral rehydration salts are administered or in severe cases rehydration is done by intravenous rehydration salts. Several medications are available to treat these conditions and the drugs include: Ondansetron, metoclopramide, dimenhydrinate and pyridoxine.

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