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Emesis, or vomiting, occurs for a number of different reasons; emesis treatment is administered only for some of them. For example, one of the most common causes of emesis among young adults in the US is excessive ingestion of alcohol; in these cases, special treatment generally is not called for. When emesis treatment is indicated, as in the case of chemotherapy-induced vomiting or motion sickness, specific medications called anti-emetics are prescribed to quell the nausea and vomiting.
Emesis treatment often consists of two separate components, treatment of the cause of the vomiting and treatment of its effects. There are many different reasons a person may vomit, including a number of ailments of the gastrointestinal tract, including such things as gastritis, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, appendicitis, overeating, and food poisoning, among others. Some cases of emesis are related to disorders of the sensory system, such as Meniere’s disease and motion sickness.
Other causes of emesis include problems in the brain, such as concussion, migraine, and tumors, viral or bacteriological illnesses like flu, and adverse reaction to drugs, such as those used in chemotherapy. Metabolic disturbances like uremia, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia also can cause emesis, as can pregnancy. It is also not uncommon for people to vomit simply because somebody near them has vomited, or when they encounter a particularly repulsive sight or aroma.
Repeated emesis can have significant adverse effects on the body, one of the first of which is dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Babies, who frequently vomit for no apparent reason, must be monitored carefully and rehydrated when they vomit, and dehydration can be a concern for older people as well. The high concentration of acid in vomit can destroy dental enamel when vomiting is profuse or frequent, and the digestive enzymes present in vomit can also contribute to deterioration of the gums. Vomiting over the long term can also cause erosions of the esophagus, or tears in its mucosal protection. In every instance of vomiting, there is a danger that the vomit may be introduced into the lungs.
When emesis is caused by physical disorders like those named above, or a psychological problem like bulimia nervosa, the underlying cause is treated. In these cases, emesis treatment includes addressing the adverse effects of emesis, such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. When the emesis is caused by motion sickness, or is a reaction to prescribed drugs, such as those used in chemotherapy, emesis treatment generally consists of prescribing anti-emetics to prevent the reaction and the nausea that usually accompanies it. These medications inhibit the receptor sites in the brain that induce the complex series of muscular contractions that result in vomiting, and include dopamine antagonists, cannabinoids, antihistamines and anticholinergics.
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