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What Are the Causes of Vomiting & Diarrhea in the Elderly?

Updated July 20, 2017

Vomiting and diarrhoea can be symptoms of numerous serious health issues; and even some not so serious issues. Diagnosing the cause of vomiting and diarrhoea in the elderly can be quite difficult for doctors. However, there are a few pretty common diagnoses to vomiting and diarrhoea in the elderly and this article will name a few.

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Appendicitis is when the appendix, which is a small pouch attached to the large intestine, becomes inflamed. Appendicitis can be caused by a variety of factors; however, blockage by faeces or a foreign object are the most frequent causes. Tumours could also be the cause of appendicitis in some elderly patients. One of the first symptoms of appendicitis is abdominal pain, which can later be followed by vomiting, chills, fever, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and nausea. While other symptoms may occur those listed are the most common. Once in the care of a doctor, tests will be performed to determine if in fact the appendix is what has caused the symptoms the elderly patient is experiencing. If so, the doctor will place the elderly patient in surgery and remove the appendix. In the United States surgery to remove an appendix due to appendicitis is one of the most common abdominal surgeries.


Gastroenteritis is also known as a more common term; the stomach flu. Gastroenteritis causes inflammation of the intestines and the stomach. The most common symptoms of gastroenteritis are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. The frequent causes of gastroenteritis are food-borne illnesses, bacteria and viruses. The typical treatment of gastroenteritis is time; some say "let it run its course." However, if the symptoms persist the doctor who is caring for the elderly patient may call for blood work and a stool sample.


Diverticulitis is the swelling of abnormal abdominal pouches found in the wall of the intestines. Diverticulitis is rarely found in patients under 40 years of age. Symptoms of diverticulitis are nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, abdominal pain and weight loss. Some doctors feel as though diverticulitis is caused by high blood pressure or abnormal pressure in the colon. Most of the time diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics; however, in some cases surgery may be necessary. Doctors tend to recommend a high-fibre diet to prevent diverticulitis and some even tell their elderly patients to avoid foods containing nuts and/or seeds.

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About the Author

Kathy James has been a freelance writer for more than 10 years. In that time she has written for websites such as eHow and private clients. Kathy is also a big gamer who has written dozens of video game walk-throughs. She is pursuing her goal of being a criminal attorney at the University of Central Florida.

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