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Constant Nausea: What Could It Be?

Updated on December 30, 2011
Tummy Trouble
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Have you ever had nausea that just would not stop? Are your doctors stumped as to the cause? If so, then I have a suggestion for you to provide to your doctors.

Today, I'd like to share a personal medical journey. My hope is that it will help others find a correct diagnosis and treatment as my story begins and ends in two very different places.

How it Started

My journey began when I was pregnant. To say that I had all-day "morning sickness" would be putting it rather mildly. Even the nurses at the doctors office kept down-playing the severe nausea as "normal" at first despite my constant calls for help.

Then came the day when I couldn't stop vomiting. Even though several hours went by, the medical staff still did not want to take action and passed it off as 'bad morning sickness'. It was when it continued for 24 hours that they finally had us come in.That was the first of several times I needed to stay in the hospital overnight for IV while pregnant and when I started taking anti-nausea medication on a regular basis for the first time ever in my life.

The nausea never stopped during the pregnancy. I did what I could to take as little medication as possible, but I simply needed it too many times just to eat. My whole hope was that it would end after the pregnancy as I never had issues with nausea prior to the pregnancy.

The Next Phase

After giving birth, the nausea continued. I stayed in the hospital the full two days allowed and I still wasn't feeling any better. I kept hoping that after additional recovery, I'd finally start feeling better. But weeks, then months, went by and I was still living with constant nausea. The doctors seemed to have a 'wait and see' approach.

After three months, I developed more symptoms. One of those was abdominal pain. That was when the medical personnel took enough action to run some tests, including a CT scan.

The First Diagnosis

The morning after one of my doctor appointments, I went to the hospital to have a CT scan. The medical staff informed me to not eat or drink anything so many hours beforehand simply as a precaution.

That CT scan showed that my appendix needed to be removed. Not only that, they took it out only a few hours after the CT scan. It also turns out there was a rare abscess inside of it.

Though I again very much hoped this would end the nausea, it still continued.

The Second Diagnosis

Another month of nausea went by and I again developed abdominal pain. That brought me back to the surgeon's office who ordered an ultrasound.

The ultrasound showed that my gall bladder was the culprit this time. It had a lot of stones in it and was showing early signs of infection. Due to those factors, it was removed. Afterwards, the surgeon commented that it had 'the tinniest duct she had ever seen.'

Though it was thought the small duct could have been blocking necessary digestive fluids thereby causing the nausea, the nausea still continued after my gall bladder was removed. It is because of that the surgeon referred me to a GI doctor.

The Final Discoveries

The GI doctor first performed an upper endoscopy and discovered I have Barrett's esophagus. This is when there are 'abnormal' cells found in the esophagus as they are more like stomach cells than regular esophagus cells. It's thought that all the uncontrollable vomiting I'd been doing from the severe nausea caused this.

The second discovery was that the valve at the top of my stomach no longer functions. Since there is now almost nothing to stop the contents of my stomach fluids from coming up into my esophagus because of that, I have acid reflux.

Since these discoveries helped explain the nausea, the GI doctor tried a whole host of various pills to see if that would help eliminate it. They did not help.

At this point, it was felt that most other options had been tried so the GI doctor performed a procedure called ERCP. Basically, the doctor runs instruments down the esophagus into the upper parts of the digestive system further than an upper endoscopy can reach. I was given general anesthesia for this procedure.

What was discovered through this procedure was that I had sphincter of oddi dysfunction. This is when a duct in the digestive system is blocked thereby blocking necessary digestive fluids. The GI doctor was able to open that duct up during the ERCP procedure to allow for the digestive fluids to freely flow.

This, finally, is when my constant nausea stopped and has instead become occasional. Though I cannot lay flat when I sleep (I sleep in a chair) and need to eat hours before I go to sleep, I don't have the constant nausea issues anymore. That, to me, is HUGE.

Why I'm Fortunate

Though my sphincter of oddi issue was discovered less than a year after giving birth to my now 4 year old healthy son, not everyone who has it gets diagnosed so quickly. I have been incredibly fortunate to have a group of doctors who have taken me seriously every time, but I very much recognize that is not always the case for everyone out there.

In my research, I have again learned how fortunate I was to get diagnosed so quickly as a much more "common" symptom of this seems to be more abdominal/ back/ shoulder pain than the extreme nausea and vomiting that I experienced. Sphincter of Oddi also seems to be rather "rare" and even appeared in an episode of the TV show Mystery Diagnosis. I happened to see that episode just days before my ERCP procedure and it featured someone who had the extreme nausea and vomiting like I had (difference being I don't think she had the appendix and gall bladder surgeries beforehand like I did).

So, if you happen to be dealing with anything like this and your doctors aren't taking you seriously or passing it off as nothing, I encourage you to find a doctor who will listen. There are, after all, plenty of doctors still out there who brush off legit medical issues only because they don't have the specialized knowledge to recognize what it really is. When you do find the right doctor for you and talk about these or similar symptoms, see what that person thinks about you bringing up sphincter of oddi dysfunction. Please just remember that you are in control of your medical treatment.

If you or others you know have gone through anything like this, I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment below!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Just want to say that I had nausea without vomiting for like 6 months...

      It went away on its own, though I never figured out what it was.

      But I must say again to look for a doctor that takes you serious. Mine just said I was making up my symptoms, or I was stressed and needed to work on reducing stress levels. Whether that is true or not, I just don't know, but please look for another doctor if he isn't taking you serious or he doesn't know

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am 46 years old and I have been battleing nausea since 2003. First I was diagnosed with GERD thru endoscopy. Then I had constant stomach pain and had gallbladder surgery. I have been on Nexium since 2003 40mg 2 times a day. I wake up nauseated, go to bed nauseated. Nothing seems to work for me. I have had many endoscopies, colonostomy, you name it. Frustrated and out of options. Please help.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Im 17 and ive had consta t nausea for over a year. Im sick of feeling like this. It had pretty much ruined my life and the doctors arent doing anything. I just want to be a normal teenager and be able to go to school. Please help.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Did you know that they might be able to do an operation to close your sphincter. What they do is wrap the top part of your stomach around the bottom part of your stomach n this help with the reflux n as your sphincter doesn't work you might be allowed for this

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm not sure if anyone is checking this post any more but I am hoping that someone can help. My son was put on acid blockers at 3 weeks of age for acid reflux. He was always an unhealthy child and by the time he was 7 I started taking him to a pediatric GI. He was diagnosed with a nervous stomach and sent home. He constantly had stomach viruses and stomach pains all of his elementary years. He is now 14 and last August he got really sick....nausea, tummy, and right side pain. In December he was finally scheduled for a HIDA scan, which showed a 0 functioning gallbladder......finally his gallbladder was removed December 13th 2012. Greatest thing that ever happened for the first 4 weeks and then things went terribly wrong. He started feeling nauseous again and had a stabbing pain on his right side that felt like he was being stabbed along with a constant pain that wrapped around to his back at a constant pain level of 8-9, along with bloating. We have traveled from 2 to 6 hours away to different pediatric GI's and had CAT scans, sonograms, endoscopes, colonoscopies, x-rays, enzyme level tests, and everything else that you can think of. All tests come back normal other than having acid erosion in his esophagus and stomach. Once again we were sent home with acid blockers and this time with 25 mg of elevil to take once daily. I have asked the doctors several times about sphincter of oddi disfunction and none of them want to go there. They say that it is to dangerous and hard to diagnose and that his enzyme levels would be elevated if this was his cause for pain. So for now he is being treated for a phantom pain that they are hoping will just correct itself with time. None of the new meds helped his pain and I do not know what to do next. I m hoping that someone....anyone has been through this and can help my child's pain. This just can't be as good as life gets.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for your article. I've had constant nausea now for 5 days. I'm also a sufferer of ulcerative colitis. I've been putting it down to that, thinking that every time it flares up, it gets worse; however, I chose to look deeper into it because it didn't make sense, and found your article.

      I'll have my doctor read it when next I see him next. I'll make the appointment tomorrow.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am sixteen and I have been experiencing severe nausea for almost a year. I have been to countless doctors and have been thought to have everything from ear infections to stomach ulcers and migraines. Although I have not actually vomited, this nausea has gotten in the way of my life. I eat ginger candies to help it but they do not help all the time. Thank you for the post because I have never heard of what you have, but it sounds like my same symptoms and I want to ask my GI doctor about it.

    • katieababy74 profile image


      8 years ago from Auckland

      I can relate to your article completely. I have Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction. I have had two ERCP's, two bouts of pancreatitus and still the little valve is playing me up. A word of advice for anyone getting their Oddi treated surgically, make sure your surgeon is EXTREMELY experienced in this procedure. It is a very specialized area and they can do a lot of harm if it is not done correctly as I am finding out! Thank you so much for sharing your story, it really helps to find other people talking about Oddi dysfunction and to know people know what you are going through.

    • Moon Willow Lake profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Willow Lake 

      9 years ago

      tamron: Thank-you for stopping by and sharing what happened with you. It is just amazing to me that there are doctors out there who pass off legit issues before digging deeper in order to rule real issues out; just because s/he isn't aware of something doesn't mean that it's "psychological". It is very good to hear that it has been resolved. Here's to a healthy future!

    • tamron profile image


      9 years ago

      I can relate to your article! I had a problem with constant nausea in my teenage years. The doctors accused me of making myself vomit.

      I looked sickly and very thin. I never actual vomited but feared eating in public places.

      I seen several doctors and did what was suggested. Nothing worked! I got pregnant the nausea went away and never came back.

      In my case I think the change of hormone fixed the problem.

      Loved your article! Voted Up

    • Moon Willow Lake profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Willow Lake 

      9 years ago

      Hello michele santa cruz, ca, thanks for stopping by and for sharing your story. I cannot imagine having to live with undiagnosed symptoms for 18 years. It sounds like you have found a good solution to your symptoms, and that is always a huge breakthrough! Please do take care and never give up!

    • profile image

      michele santa cruz, ca 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for your post.. I have sod as well. I ended up diagnosing myself after 18 years of attacks. Checked out my med records and it was mentioned years prior it may be sod. I found out when I took morphine for foot pain. I woke up with a bad attack. Got on line and typed morphine makes stomach painful caused by.. In for the upper endoscopy mentioned it to my doc as when he sweeps by there prior I was sent into an attack. Sure enough. doc says he has the thing for me.. gave me a shot of GLUCAGON. With in seconds.. gone. unfortunatly i cant just carry that around. but if i end up in the hospital for pain that is what i tell them to administer..

    • Moon Willow Lake profile imageAUTHOR

      Moon Willow Lake 

      10 years ago

      jpwriter: Thank-you for your comment. I am sorry to hear that you have gone through so much. Please keep up the hope that your answer will come and that one day you will be mostly nausea-free. I hope you a) obtain a 2nd opinion from a new doctor and/or b) see if the doctors think sphincter of oddi dysfunction fits your set of circumstances or not. Please know that I am sending you support.

    • jpwriter profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story. I have chronic stomach problems, nausea all the time, etc. I've had 3+ endoscopies, colonoscopy, flouroscopy, and etc....The doc has to give me anesthesia for a colonoscopy. Gallbladder is already gone. So frustrating.

      It's strange that I'd stick w/ the same doc for 5 years even though he's not doing anything but saying "hm, I don't know".

      My friend has Barrett's esophagus too. I wish you good health. It sucks when it's not quite there.


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