Medical mysteries of nausea to be topic of forum in Pittsburgh
By Luis Fábregas
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Mention the word “vomit,” and someone likely will make a finger-toward-open-mouth gesture or crack a joke about praying to the porcelain gods.
Yet scientists who study vomiting and nausea point out the symptoms are no laughing matter.
“I haven't seen a lot of humor in this field,” said Charles Horn, a neuroscientist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who studies vomiting. “It's a very adverse event. Most people don't like vomiting.”
About 100 vomiting and nausea experts from around the world will gather for the first time this week in Pittsburgh. Scientists from as far away as Australia will discuss the medical mysteries behind these unpleasant symptoms. The subject has not led to scientific meetings before, officials said.
“It is something that I think for the most part has been neglected within science,” Horn said. “What we're trying to do is ... get more people involved in it.”
The two-day conference will examine why some patients — such as pregnant women or cancer patients who get chemotherapy — experience vomiting and nausea, often in excessive amounts. Research shows vomiting affects more than half of pregnant women during their first trimester.
Nausea and vomiting are among the primary diagnoses when people go to the emergency room for gastrointestinal trouble.
“If it goes on for a long time, they're not really able to get the nutrition they need,” Horn said.
Horn became interested in studying vomiting when researching feeding and body weight in rodents. He discovered that laboratory rats and mice don't have a vomiting reflex. Pitt scientists opted to use musk shrews from East Asia in their research, he said.
Better understanding of the genetics and biology of vomiting and nausea could lead to better treatments, Horn said. Though medications exist to treat the symptoms, they're not effective in roughly half of patients. Treatments for chemotherapy side effects control nausea but not vomiting, he said.
“It definitely interferes with my life,” said Jamie Snyder, 43, of Greensburg. She was forced to quit her job as a case manager with the state Department of Aging because of regular bouts of nausea and vomiting related to Crohn's disease.
The daily medicine she takes sometimes doesn't help control the symptoms.
“If I eat too much, I get sick. I have to be mindful of what I'm eating,” she said. “If they could come up with better treatment, they would help a lot.”
Although unpleasant, throwing up is not always bad, Horn said.
“If you have a viral infection, if you have bacteria in a tainted food, you eat something that has a toxin in it, you want to get rid of it,” he said.
Luis Fábregas is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suspect in East Liberty slayings may be part of murder-for-hire case
- Qualifications of Peduto nominee for building inspection chief come up short
- On Pittsburgh visit, ambassador says $15B in aid to Ukraine shows support
- FirstEnergy last to get smart meter OK
- CCAC to offer early retirement incentives
- Casey says C-130s to remain into ’15 at Moon base, but squadron will lose jobs
- Mon River project to get boost, according to Army Corps of Engineers
- State Superior Court denies ex-Sen. Jane Orie’s corruption appeal
- PennDOT cash eases road repair pain in Lawrence County
- Newsmaker: Charlotte Lott
- Portion of South Busway to be detoured Friday