What is Nausea?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Nausea is a sensation of discomfort in the upper abdomen, accompanied by an urge to vomit. Also known of as qualm, nausea may be a side effect associated with several medications or a symptom of disease or disorder. Sometimes large, fatty or sugary meals may also lead to a feeling of nausea.

Nausea may occur for a variety of reasons that may not be particularly serious, such as in the case of motion sickness, or may be a symptom of a more damaging underlying pathology such as liver infection with the hepatitis virus. Nausea may also manifest during the early months of pregnancy, known of as morning sickness.

Some of the causes of nausea are:

  • Alcohol, caffeine, excess sugar
  • Anxiety, depression and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa
  • Addison's disease
  • Appendicitis
  • Brain tumor
  • Hydrocephalus or "water on the brain"
  • Cancer and chemotherapy
  • Viral infections including chicken pox, influenza, stomach flu and norovirus
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Head injuries
  • Diabetes and associated gastroparesis
  • Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder
  • Gastroenteritis or food poisoning
  • Pancreatitis
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Ear disorders, dizziness, Meniere's disease, vertigo
  • Certain medications
  • Drugs of abuse
  • Heart attack or acute myocardial infarction
  • Electrolyte imbalance, mainly a rise in blood levels of potassium
  • Raised pressure within the skull
  • Meningitis or inflammation and infection of the membranes covering the brain
  • Kidney failure and kidney disorders
  • Migraine
  • Morning sickness associated with pregnancy
  • Premenstrual syndrome and menstruation
  • Pneumonia
  • Stress and sleep deprivation
  • Withdrawal syndrome
  • Liver disorders and hepatitis

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2013

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