Islets of Hope disorders associated with diabetes
Edited by Lahle Wolfe
Edited verion of NIH Publication No. 04–4548, February 2004 Print NIH Version of this Article
Fast Links to Disorders Often Associated with
Fast Click to Problems Associated with
CVS Links from the CVSA
Living with CVS
Dysmotilities Association (GDPA)
Links from CVS Web Ring Page
A web ring for patients, families, and for professionals providing support, education, and research for Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
Badbelly's CVS Page tells 17 year old Jackie's story in her own words. This is an extremely powerful story about a lot of years of suffering and searching for answers. If you or someone you love suffers from CVS or unexplained vomiting bouts you will NOT WANT TO MISS this page!
The Disease in Disguise - Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
The Official Australian CVS Association WebSite
Raising A Teenage Daughter
My CVS Story
Tim's CVS Story
Do these symptoms sound familiar?
Recurrent, severe, discrete episodes of vomiting
Various intervals of normal health between episodes
Duration of vomiting episodes from hours to days
No apparent cause of vomiting
If so, you may have CVS. See your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms.
Important Medical Disclaimer
Material on Islets of Hope's website is intended to provide general information only. It is not intended as a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed medical pratictioner.
Disorders Associated with Diabetes
Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
The symptoms of CVS can sometimes be confused with gastroparesis, a complications of diabetes that involves delayed emptying of stomach contents after eating. Gastroparesis can lead to irratic blood glucose and make managing diabetes more difficult. However, there are treatments for gastroparesis.
Also, see "Gastroparesis."
What is cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS)
Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a rare, and difficult to diagnose disorder where people experience bouts or cycles of severe nausea and vomiting that last for hours or even days and alternate with longer periods of no symptoms at all. CVS occurs mostly in children, but the disorder can affect adults, too.
CVS has no known cause. Each episode is similar to the previous ones. The episodes tend to start at about the same time of day, last the same length of time, and present the same symptoms at the same level of intensity. Although CVS can begin at any age in children and adults, it usually starts between the ages of 3 and 7. In adults, episodes tend to occur less often than they do in children, but they last longer. Furthermore, the events or situations that trigger episodes in adults cannot always be pinpointed as easily as they can in children.
Episodes can be so severe that a person may have to stay in bed for days, unable to go to school or work. No one knows for sure how many people have CVS, but medical researchers believe that more people may have the disorder than is commonly thought (as many as 1 in 50 children in one study). Because other more common diseases and disorders also cause cycles of vomiting, many people with CVS are initially misdiagnosed until the other disorders can be ruled out. What is known is that CVS can be disruptive and frightening not just to people who have it, but to the entire family as well.
The Four Phases of CVS
CVS has four phases:
The prodrome phase signals that an episode of nausea and vomiting is about to begin. This phase, which is often marked by abdominal pain, can last from just a few minutes to several hours. Sometimes taking medicine early in the prodrome phase can stop an episode in progress. However, sometimes there is no warning: A person may simply wake up in the morning and begin vomiting.
The episode phase consists of nausea and vomiting; inability to eat, drink, or take medicines without vomiting; paleness; drowsiness; and exhaustion.
The recovery phase begins when the nausea and vomiting stop. Healthy color, appetite, and energy return.
Most people can identify a specific condition or event that triggered an episode. The most common trigger is an infection. Another, often found in children, is emotional stress or excitement, often from a birthday or vacation, for example. Colds, allergies, sinus problems, and the flu can also set off episodes in some people.
Other reported triggers include eating certain foods (such as chocolate or cheese), eating too much, or eating just before going to bed. Hot weather, physical exhaustion, menstruation, and motion sickness can also trigger episodes.
The main symptoms of CVS are severe vomiting, nausea, and retching (gagging). Episodes usually begin at night or first thing in the morning and may include vomiting or retching as often as 6 to 12 times an hour during the worst of the episode. Episodes usually last anywhere from 1 to 5 days, though they can last for up to 10 days.
Other symptoms include pallor, exhaustion, and listlessness. Sometimes the nausea and vomiting are so severe that a person appears to be almost unconscious. Sensitivity to light, headache, fever, dizziness, diarrhea, and abdominal pain may also accompany an episode.
In addition, the vomiting may cause drooling and excessive thirst. Drinking water usually leads to more vomiting, though the water can dilute the acid in the vomit, making the episode a little less painful. Continuous vomiting can lead to dehydration, which means that the body has lost excessive water and salts.
CVS is hard to diagnose because no clear tests—such as a blood test or x ray—exist to identify it. A doctor must diagnose CVS by looking at symptoms and medical history and by excluding more common diseases or disorders that can also cause nausea and vomiting. Also, diagnosis takes time because doctors need to identify a pattern or cycle to the vomiting.
An excellent web resource for the specific diagnostic criteria of CVS can be found on the Australian CVS Association site.
CVS cannot be cured. Treatment varies, but people with CVS are generally advised to get plenty of rest; sleep; and take medications that prevent a vomiting episode, stop or alleviate one that has already started, or relieve other symptoms.
Once a vomiting episode begins, treatment is supportive. It helps to stay in bed and sleep in a dark, quiet room. Severe nausea and vomiting may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. Sedatives may help if the nausea continues.
Sometimes, during the prodrome phase, it is possible to stop an episode from happening altogether. For example, people who feel abdominal pain before an episode can ask their doctor about taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to try to stop it. Other medications that may be helpful are ranitidine (Zantac) or omeprazole (Prilosec), which help calm the stomach by lowering the amount of acid it makes.
During the recovery phase, drinking water and replacing lost electrolytes are very important. Electrolytes are salts that the body needs to function well and stay healthy. Symptoms during the recovery phase can vary: Some people find that their appetites return to normal immediately, while others need to begin by drinking clear liquids and then move slowly to solid food.
People whose episodes are frequent and long-lasting may be treated during the symptom-free intervals in an effort to prevent or ease future episodes. Medications that help people with migraine headaches—propranolol, cyproheptadine, and amitriptyline—are sometimes used during this phase, but they do not work for everyone. Taking the medicine daily for 1 to 2 months may be necessary to see if it helps.
In addition, the symptom-free phase is a good time to eliminate anything known to trigger an episode. For example, if episodes are brought on by stress or excitement, this period is the time to find ways to reduce stress and stay calm. If sinus problems or allergies cause episodes, those conditions should be treated.
The severe vomiting that defines CVS is a risk factor for several complications:
Points to Remember
For More Information
Information about cyclic vomiting syndrome is also available from
National Organization for Rare Disorders Inc. (NORD)
Page Updated 03/18/2006