Vomiting

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What is vomiting?

Vomiting, also known as emesis and throwing up, is the forceful ejection of the stomach’s contents. Vomiting is a common symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. It occurs in all age groups and populations and may or may not occur with nausea.

Depending on the cause, vomiting can begin suddenly and disappear quickly, as in the case of alcohol intoxication. Vomiting may also recur over days, weeks or months, such as vomiting due to morning sickness or pancreatitis.

Vomiting can be a symptom of digestive system disorders as well as disorders of other body systems.

Vomiting that is associated with head injury, vomiting of blood, dizziness, weakness, or change in level of consciousness can be a symptom of a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. Call 911 if you or someone you are with experiences any of these symptoms.

What other symptoms might occur with vomiting?

Vomiting may occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

Digestive symptoms that may occur along with vomiting

Vomiting may occur with other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:

Other symptoms that may occur along with vomiting

Vomiting can also be caused by problems in body systems other than the digestive tract including:

    Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

    In some cases, vomiting may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Get immediate help (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are exhibiting these symptoms:

    What causes vomiting?   

    Conditions that are known to cause vomiting include infection, poisoning, mental health illnesses, malignancy (cancer), inflammation, trauma, obstruction, and other abnormal processes within the digestive system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, or endocrine system.

    Gastrointestinal causes of vomiting

    Vomiting may arise from problems in the digestive tract including:

    Other causes of vomiting

    Vomiting can also be caused by problems in body systems other than the digestive tract including:

    Life-threatening causes of vomiting

    In some cases, vomiting may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Call your doctor or poison-control hotline immediately or take the person to an emergency care facility if you suspect poisoning or drug ingestion.

    Life-threatening causes of vomiting include:

      What are the potential complications of vomiting?

      If left untreated, vomiting can lead to serious complications, especially if the vomiting is severe, continues for days, or the underlying disease or condition is untreated or poorly managed. Complications include:

      • Aspiration of stomach contents into the airway and lungs
      • Dehydration due to a decreased desire to drink or ability to hold fluids
      • Electrolyte imbalance
      • Gum disease
      • Mallory-Weiss tear (tear of the lower esophagus resulting in severe bleeding)
      • Poor nutrition due to a decreased desire to eat
      • Tooth decay
      • Anemia and shock caused by vomiting of blood
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      Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
      Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 2
      THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
      1. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.
      2. Ferri FF. Ferri’s Differential Diagnosis, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2011.
      3. Scorza K, Williams A, Phillips JD, Shaw J. Evaluation of nausea and vomiting. Am Fam Physician 2007; 76:76.