Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

woman with abdominal pain

What is the relationship between cyclic vomiting syndrome and migraines?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is generally considered to be a variant of migraines, which are severe headaches often associated with pain, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Many people with cyclic vomiting syndrome have a family history of migraines, and attacks of nausea and vomiting may be replaced by migraine headaches as an affected person gets older.

What other features and conditions accompany cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS)? What is the prognosis for CVS?

Most people with cyclic vomiting syndrome have normal intelligence, although some affected people have experienced developmental delay or intellectual disability, muscle weakness (myopathy), and/or seizures. People with these additional features are said to have cyclic vomiting syndrome plus.

The prognosis for CVS varies. Patients with complications and weak responses to treatment have a fair prognosis while others may respond well and have a good prognosis. In general, CVS lasts about two and a half to five and a half years, resolving late childhood or early adolescence. Some patients go on to develop migraine headaches, and a few patients have CVS extend into adulthood. Patients with a diagnosis of cyclic vomiting syndrome plus have a prognosis usually ranging from fair to poor.

How common is cyclic vomiting syndrome?

The exact prevalence of cyclic vomiting syndrome is unknown. Estimates range from about three to 2,000 per 100,000 children. The condition is diagnosed less commonly in adults, although recent studies suggest the condition could be as common in adults as in children.

Is it possible to prevent cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS)?

Most investigators who study CVS suggest there are ways to prevent or reduce the number of CVS attacks. Ways to prevent and/or reduce attacks include the following:

  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Seek help to prevent stress and anxiety.
  • Treat infections and/or allergies early.
  • Avoid any triggers of CVS, especially related to foods.
  • During the well phase, eat a balanced diet with regular meals.
  • Utilize appropriate medications prescribed by a physician to reduce CVS symptoms.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/10/2016

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