What is Nausea?
Nausea is an uncomfortable stomach sensation one experiences which makes them believe they want to vomit or actually doing so. It is for most parts a symptom to another medical condition.
This ailment can be acute where it happens for a brief episode or chronic where it continues for longer periods.
It’s a general symptom with a wide scope of causes: motion sickness, pregnancy, ear infections and even heart related health can bring on nausea.
Nausea can be triggered by different parts of the body, medical conditions or environmental reasons. Causes include:
Brain Related Causes
This can be explained as a very severe headache which causes sensitivity to things like light and sounds.
Some people suffering from migraines will experience severe nausea.
This condition is a failed communication between the vision and the body’s sense of movement. It causes confusion and dizziness, which leads to nausea.
Motion sickness can occur when the person is a passenger on a moving object such as a vehicle, train, ship or aircraft.
Young children, women and elderly have a higher risk for motion sickness. (3)
Motion sickness is not dangerous, only uncomfortable and can be treated with medication.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
General Anxiety Disorder occurs when the brain fails to stop the daily worries. This feeling can be overwhelming, preventing daily tasks. It gives the individual a feeling of uneasiness and discomfort causing nausea.
Nausea is a common symptom related to brain tumors.
Ear Related Causes
When moisture or damp builds up within the middle ear, it can cause an infection. This ailment can be painful and trigger nausea.
Ear infections are very common in children. In fact, in the US it’s the cause of about 30 million pediatric visits a year. (5)
In some cases the actual antibiotic medical treatment can trigger nausea as well.
The inner part of the ear is called the vestibulocochlear. This is the part which controls balance.
When it becomes inflamed, it swells up and loses control causing vertigo and also nausea.
Vestibular neuritis is rarely diagnosed in young children. (6)
Abdomen Related Causes
This is an infection found in the stomach. It sometimes known as stomach flu, which can be caused by contaminated food or water.
The infection will cause discomfort which will trigger watery diarrhea and nausea.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Better known as GERD, is a condition which results from acid in the stomach flowing up into the food pipe causing irritation.
The acids from the stomach can trigger nausea due to the acidic taste. (7)
This medical issue is a result of the gallbladder becoming inflamed. (8)
It’s where our bile is stored, which is what our body releases into the small intestine during digestion.
When the gallbladder becomes swollen it causes overall discomfort and nausea.
Is a serious condition caused by inflammation in the appendix – a small pouch in the lower part of the digestive system.
When inflamed it causes severe pain and nausea. (9)
Is severe nausea accompanied by vomiting which can last for longer periods of time.
It’s explained as a nausea attack, as it can happen without warning.
Anyone can experience cyclic vomiting, although people who suffer from migraines are at a higher risk. (10)
Acute Liver Failure
This is a severe complication where the liver loses its function extremely fast.
In the days prior to failure, the person will experience jaundice, disorientation and nausea among others. (11)
It’s important to go see a doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms.
Heart Related Causes
A heart attack occurs when blood is blocked from entering the heart, causing a buildup, thus leading to cardiac arrest.
Nausea is a typical symptom, although women are more likely to experience it prior to a heart attack than men. (12)
This is where the heart becomes unable to pump enough blood round to supply the body’s needs. It makes it harder for the body to perform simple daily tasks.
Heart failure is common, it affects 5.7 million people in the US. Those over 65 are at higher risk as the heart muscle weakens with age. (13)
It causes swelling and nausea, among other symptoms.
Arrhythmia is when the heartbeat is either too slow or too fast, or just in a irregular rhythm. In some cases can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. (14)
The irregular rhythm can cause nausea and discomfort.
People with a history of heart disease are at greater risk of developing this condition. (15)
Pregnancy Related Causes
For most women, morning sickness is all part of being pregnant, it actually affects about 70 percent of all pregnancies. (16)
Morning sickness causes both nausea and vomiting.
Sometimes it can cause severe nausea which can last throughout most of the pregnancy, this is called hyperemesis gravidarum.
This is down to high levels of pregnancy hormones. However, this is rare and affects only a small percentage of women. (17)
This condition is also a normal during pregnancy. As the baby grows less and less space is left for the stomach and intestines, which can cause nausea.
Typical signs associated with nausea can be pointed towards the following:
Prior to feeling nauseous many people get a sense of anxiety or feel uncomfortable.
When the stomach starts to feel unwell or unsettled, it’s usually an indicator nausea or vomiting will follow.
When experiencing nausea, clammy skin or a cold sweats can come on. This is normally due to a drop in blood pressure.
A headache is a normal symptom you experience before nausea. It can be caused by mild dehydration among others.
Abdominal Pain and Gas
As nausea is an indicator that something isn’t right in the stomach, mild or severe pain and excessive gas can be linked to it’s onset.
Nausea is very common and usually a tell tale sign of another other cause. In some cases it can be harmless and resolves itself. However, in other situations it could be your body’s way of telling you there is a problem.
As there is a multitude of potential causes, medically it does pose doctors a health “puzzle” to piece together.
There are a few different ways doctors can diagnose the reason behind nausea.
In order to identify why you are feeling nauseous your doctor will ask about medical history. This is to be sure the nausea isn’t caused by a more serious illness.
If the doctor feel there’s a need, an abdominal examination will be carried out. (18)
It’s not uncommon for medication to trigger nausea so your doctor will check any existing treatment plans you are taking. (19)
Recent Head Injuries
Head injuries can cause bleeding and swelling in the brain. This inevitably will cause discomfort and also nausea. A doctor will order a neurological examination.
Severe head injuries should be treated immediately.
Diet and Food Allergies
In order to out rule any kind of food related causes, doctors will ask about the patients diet and if any food allergies exist.
If the patient is unsure, the doctor will carry out further testing to determine any food related issues.
Where female patients are concerned, doctors will enquire whether there is any likelihood nausea is due pregnancy. If there is a possibility, a urine or blood test will be conducted to confirm either way. (20)
Blood Pressure Testing
Hypotension is abnormally low blood pressure.
For a person with a serious condition such as heart disease, further diagnosis is needed when it’s linked to symptoms such as nausea. (21)
What is nausea? Nausea is a feeling one gets before vomiting. It’s a feeling of sickness and uneasiness in the abdomen which normally isn’t painful.
What causes nausea? Nausea can be a symptom of many causes. A problem in the digestive system is a common cause, but it can also be because of head injuries, pregnancy, infections or chronic diseases. (22)
How do doctors test for nausea? The doctor will carry out an assessment, questioning the symptoms you are experiencing, medical history, possible pregnancy among others. Abdominal examinations could also be used to check for any underlying issues prompting nausea.
When should you go to the doctors with nausea? If you have experienced nausea plus vomiting for more than a few days you should seek advice. However, if experiencing severe headaches, pain in the abdomen, fever, blurred vision or confusion, immediate medical attention is needed. (23)
Can you prevent nausea? This is heavily based upon the diagnosis. However, by eating smaller meals throughout the day or opting for food which digests easier can prevent it. Drinking lots of water also helps too. If you feel like lying down after eating, don’t, your head should be elevated from your feet to help the digestion.
What relieves nausea? There are a few medicines, such as anti-nausea. But home remedies can also work. Sticking to plain foods or home remedies like drinking chamomile tea and plenty of water.
Can nausea be fatal? Yes and no. Nausea in itself is for most parts completely harmless. However, nausea can be a sign of more serious medical conditions which can be fatal if not treated. This is why it is important to seek medical help if the nausea is prolonged or severe.
Can nausea harm an unborn baby during pregnancy? Nausea cannot harm the baby during pregnancy, it’s a normal symptom to experience and is in fact considered to be a sign of a healthy pregnancy. Nausea is most common during the first trimester. (24)
Nausea itself is not harmful, although it is an uncomfortable feeling which could proceed vomiting.
It’s linked with so many different possibilities, from the trivial to the troublesome.
This is why it’s essential to establish whether it’s a minor problem with no cause for concern or if it’s the sign of a serious medical emergency.