Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

OK. I’ve always had a sensitive stomach; bad colds and sinus problems tend to make me sick (even though my doctor tells me that can’t happen because the stomach is designed to process and dispose of sinus fluid. Mine doesn’t). Right from being tiny, colds would gradually overload my stomach with goo, and eventually I would be very sick and feel lots better. I wasn’t sick the rest of the time though, just with really bad colds.

I had a bad pregnancy in 97 (aged 23), I had morning sickness almost constantly and horrific heartburn for the last three months. I went back on the pill about 4 months after my daughter was born, all fine at that point. I’m not sure if that’s relevant. I had personal problems in 1999, very stressful time, then I got gastroenteritis very badly, and lost a stone or so in a few weeks. I eventually got better, and my personal problems were resolved, but I had regular flare-ups of sickness for a long time after I thought it had gone. I assumed it was just because of the stress inflicted on my stomach while I was ill. I realised after several months that it was still happening and hadn’t improved. In 2000 the Doctor gave me anti-sickness pills, which made me sick. I tried three different types. Then he gave me different ones, which go on your gums instead of being swallowed; they made me sick too.

A few months later, after several doctor’s appointments, I was given an antibiotic and a drug to kill helicobacter pylori which is the bacteria that causes ulcers. It didn’t do anything really except give me thrush. At this point I was being sick about every 2 weeks, I would be totally normal for a fortnight, then wake up at around 3 am (almost always 3.04 am precisely.) and vomit violently for about an hour. Then I would go back to sleep and do it again a few hours later. Then I would retch for a while and go back to sleep again. Next morning I would be something akin to living dead, couldn’t eat or drink anything, was sick every hour or so and slept in between. After the first few times I just threw up acid and bile, (that’s not a hobby I would recommend). I would normally be cold and shivery and weak with regular sickness attacks for between 3 and 4 days, during which time I sometimes had upset guts as well. I would always have far too much saliva during an attack too, I couldn’t swallow it because it made me instantly sick, and so I would have to spit into tissues all day. Then it would suddenly stop, normally in an afternoon, and all would be well again.

(One weird thing was that sometimes I would eat something too early, thinking my stomach had recovered enough, and when I was sick half an hour later I wouldn’t throw up the food. Just acid and bile again… which I would have thought would have been under the food????? Bizarre. Oh, and I always have a weird taste in my mouth, a kind of sinusy metallic taste, it stays for the duration of the attack. I know it’s totally over when I can’t taste it any more.) Later that year I had a barium meal, which was horrific, mainly because asking someone to drink chalk when they feel sick is tantamount to torture. The results were inconclusive, at the hospital they said I hadn’t managed to get enough down to show anything up clearly, but the notes they sent to my doctor said they found a duodenal ulcer, and I should be treated for it. Suspicious, I thought. They put me on months worth of anti-ulcer treatment and more antibiotics. Which did nothing. This is where my timescale gets a bit bleary. I went through phases of annoying the doctor and phases of resigning myself to it and just trying to ignore it.

Next they gave me ‘oemeprazole’ acid-control tablets, around 2001, and said I would just have to take them permanently, one a day. They did help a bit I think, but after about 6 months they stopped helping. (Two doctors, incidentally, have told me the whole thing is totally psychological and is created by a ‘fear of being sick.’ Hmmm. I don’t enjoy being sick, but I’m quite used to it. I wouldn’t say it frightened me.) A year later I was sent for an endoscopy, which was negative, although the man who did it said that he hadn’t expected to see anything because I wasn’t having an attack at the time. So that was a bit pointless too. I’ve also been tested for wheat allergy, diabetes and a few unpronouncable things.

A year or so after that, I was sent to a specialist. Hooray!!! He said he didn’t know what was wrong with me but he was really interested in my symptoms because he had a lot of people referred to him with the same ones. He thought it might be a side effect of irritable bowel syndrome and told me to drink more water. He also gave it a name which I can’t remember now, but I know when I looked it up in the medical book it was basically the same as bad indigestion. I wasn’t convinced.

I sort of gave up for a while after that. It was a bit better by then; I was down to being the walking dead once a month for about 3 or 4 days.

Then the year before last I got cross and pro-active. I started writing down when my attacks were, and how long they lasted. I was taking the standard contraceptive pill at the time, and I realised I was never ever sick on my pill free week. I told the doctor; he said it wasn’t anything to do with it.  After a few months I went back and insisted on a different pill, because the sickness had settled into a predictable monthly routine and that shouted of hormones to me. He put me on the mini pill, which doesn’t have a pill free week, and within a few months the sickness had changed its routine. I then only ever threw up while I was on my period. (I actually preferred that for a while, I felt naff anyway, might as well do it all at once). I coped with it for a while longer.

Eventually I got annoyed again, so I came off the pill completely, just to see what would happen. It takes six months to come out of your system, on the seventh month after stopping it I missed a sickness attack. Month eight it was back but milder, only 2 days.  Month nine I skipped. Month ten was milder too. I stayed off the pill.

I’m still being sick every few months. I still feel awful when I have an attack, but the attacks are now every two or three months  (normally two) and they last between one and two days. And sometimes I just feel really sick and I don’t actually throw up. I still get the slight temperatures and I still sleep a ridiculous amount and feel dreadful, but it’s over faster. I sometimes throw up a bit of blood, but I think that’s oesophagus damage from 6 years of retching, as it’s just tiny amounts.  I’ve found drinking lots of water when I’m not ill helps a bit. As does not over eating or eating before bed. Remegel tablets sometimes stop an attack but sometimes they just stall it for a bit. I sleep sitting up when I’m suffering, it spreads out the attacks a bit. Other bizarre physical things since starting with what I believe is CVS include: almost permanent bloating and burping a lot more than most people, occasional IBS, painful air bubbles in my stomach and general tiredness. I get dizzy when standing too. (I have been known to pass out if my guts and my stomach go wrong at the same time, but that’s rare… I think that’s to do with inheriting slightly low blood pressure.)

Emma (Scotland)