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How Effective Is Dexamethasone for Nausea?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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Using dexamethasone for nausea is an effective treatment, but the mechanism by which it works is not fully known. The drug is used to prevent nausea in chemotherapy patients and those undergoing surgical procedures. Studies have confirmed that even low doses of dexamethasone are effective at preventing nausea in most patients. The drug is classed as a glucocorticoid, and is usually used to decrease swelling and inflammation. Side effects of the drug include increased appetite, trouble sleeping, and dizziness.

The precise mechanism of dexamethasone for nausea is not known, but the drug is still frequently used to prevent it. Doctors believe that the drug may prevent the action of prostaglandin, which controls the contraction of smooth muscles, and thereby stops the contractions which cause vomiting. It is also possible that the drug causes the release of endorphins which stimulate appetite and improve mood. Dexamethasone is given to cancer patients whose medications can cause nausea. The drug is also used for patients undergoing surgery to prevent post-operative nausea and vomiting.

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Studies have confirmed that using dexamethasone for nausea is an effective treatment. The effectiveness of dexamethasone for nausea is comparable with traditional anti-emetics, which are drugs whose sole purpose is to treat nausea. Placebo-controlled studies have confirmed that dosages as low as 5 milligrams (mg) are sufficient for treating post-operative nausea and vomiting. Most research uses a single 8 mg dose of the drug to effectively treat nausea in post-operative patients. Dexamethasone is better at treating nausea in women who have previously suffered from motion sickness, for unknown reasons.

Doctors use dexamethasone for nausea despite the fact that the drug isn’t an anti-emetic. It is classed as a glucocorticoid, which is a type of steroid. The drug is not naturally occurring, like many steroids, but is made synthetically. Traditionally, the drug is used to treat inflammation and swelling in patients suffering from allergic reactions. It works by stopping the white blood cells, which are the body’s defense against infections.

Side effects of taking dexamethasone for nausea have not been observed in studies, but they are possible. Potential side effects of the drug include headache, increased appetite, and weight gain. Dexamethasone can also cause insomnia, dizziness, and changes in the menstrual cycle of women. The immune system-suppressing mechanism of the drug makes infection a risk for patients taking the drug regularly — any patients experiencing a fever or sore throat should contact their doctor. More serious side effects of the drug include muscle cramps, excessive bruising or bleeding, and seizures.

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anon994453
Post 4

Very much enjoy your post. Clearly written and understandable. Thank you. Laura P., RN

ddljohn
Post 3

I'm on dexamethasone because of chemotherapy. It works relatively well but it disrupts my sleep and makes me very hungry!

SarahGen
Post 2

@anamur-- Dexamethasone is not a medication that you can just take when you have nausea. It's available by prescription and is often used in hospital settings such as after surgeries.

I've only taken dexamethasone once and it was given to me before and after surgery to prevent nausea and vomiting. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.

It can be dangerous for a patient to vomit during and after surgery. Sometimes it can happen as a reflex due to tubes inserted in the throat. Dexamethasone is one of the medications used to prevent nausea and vomiting in these situations.

Unless you are having surgery or getting chemotherapy, I don't think this medication is suitable for you.

serenesurface
Post 1

I suffer from chronic nausea due to vertigo and I have learned from experience that medications used to prevent vomiting don't necessarily always work for nausea. There have been many instances where I was severely nauseated but never vomited.

So does dexamethasone prevent vomiting or does it prevent nausea? Has anyone here used it?

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