- Reviewed by Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
What is it?
Nausea is a general term describing a queasy stomach, with or without the feeling that you are about to vomit. Almost everyone experiences nausea at some time, making it one of the most common problems in medicine. Nausea is not a disease, but a symptom of many different disorders. It is caused by problems in any one of three parts of the body, including:
- Abdominal and pelvic organs — Many different abdominal conditions can cause nausea. Common abdominal causes of nausea include inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) or pancreas (pancreatitis); a blocked or stretched intestine or stomach; gastroesophageal reflux (GERD); irritation of the stomach, intestinal lining, appendix or pelvic organs; inflammation of the kidney; and gallbladder problems. The most common abdominal illnesses that result in nausea are viral infections (gastroenteritis). Nausea also can be caused by constipation and normal menstruation.
- Brain and spinal fluid — Nausea is common with migraine headaches, head injury, brain tumors, stroke, bleeding into or around the brain and meningitis (inflammation or infection of the membranes covering the brain). It can be a symptom of glaucoma, resulting from pressure on the nerves at the back of the eye. It sometimes is a brain reaction triggered by pain, significant emotional distress or exposure to unpleasant sights or odors.
- Balance centers in the inner ear — Nausea can be related to vertigo, a dizzy sensation of spinning, moving or falling when you are not moving. Common conditions that cause vertigo include motion sickness (triggered by repeated movements in different directions inside a car, boat, train, plane or amusement ride), viral infections of the inner ear (labyrinthitis), sensitivity to position change (benign positional vertigo) and certain brain or nerve tumors.
Nausea also is a common side effect of some body chemical changes:
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
About the Reviewer
Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.