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What are the causes of chronic nausea?

Updated July 19, 2017

Chronic nausea affects up to 25 per cent of the population. This debilitating, potentially neuromuscular condition is unexplained to most and is difficult to deal with or manage on one's own. Whether it is physical or psychological in origin, chronic nausea can be managed and even eliminated with the proper care.

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Most nausea is caused by conditions such as pregnancy, an adverse reaction to medication or a gastric virus. None of these are long-term conditions, so the nausea should go away over time.

Additional reasons for nausea include the side effects of other conditions or treatments, according to the Mayo Clinic. Migraines, chemotherapy, motion sickness, rotavirus or certain diseases can make nausea and vomiting happen more often. Non-physical reasons include anxiety, depression or possibly eating disorders, but these issues need to be resolved with counselling and therapy.

Chronic nausea tests

Some of the tests performed to determine the cause of chronic nausea include: a CAT scan of the head, pelvis and abdomen; X-rays and ultrasound of the abdomen; a barium enema; stool and urine samples; small bowel follow through; upper GI and small bowel series enema; endosocopy; colonoscopy; and blood tests that look at liver function, kidney function, general CBC, thyroid, growth hormone, magnesium and calcium to make sure enzyme levels are normal. Gallbladder tests and a procedure called a gastric emptying scan are also performed.


In diagnosing the reason for chronic nausea, a doctor typically checks for abdominal pain, occult gastro-oseophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gallbladder disease. She also checks whether an endocrine disease like diabetes, hypothyroidism or Addison's disease is the reason for the chronic nausea. A physician also reviews your drug history and then makes sure there are no neurological symptoms.

Occasionally, chronic nausea can be caused by a central nervous system source. The central nervous system controls the triggers for vomiting, and if these triggers are malfunctioning or misfiring, they can create a sensation of nausea. The triggers can misfire for a number of reasons from a chemical imbalance to a tumour, according to the Virtual Medical Center.

If none of those conditions are present, then the doctor takes neurogastric reasons into account and checks for gastric arrhythmia, or abnormalities in the gastric pacemaker.


If the common causes of chronic nausea (disease, side effects of treatment, etc.) have been ruled out, and a neuromuscular gastric condition is the culprit, then the treatment options generally involve dietary changes and potentially surgically implanting a gastric pacemaker to help regulate the system.


The gastric system is essentially a large, muscular pump with a pacemaker, according to research performed in the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. One possible reason for chronic nausea can be if this pacemaker goes too fast or too slow. Another possible reason is stomach paralysis. With the proper testing and treatment, it is possible to eliminate this debilitating condition.

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About the Author

Ushe Tahb

Ushe Tahb is a freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chicago. Tahb has been working as a professional online writer since 2009, focusing on health and wellness-related topics.

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