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

Elderly woman
Elderly woman (Image: old woman image by Alexander Raths from Fotolia.com)

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


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 feces or a foreign object are the most frequent causes. Tumors 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, diarrhea, 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.

Abdominal Surgery
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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, diarrhea 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.

Doctor (Image: doctor image by sasha from Fotolia.com)


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-fiber diet to prevent diverticulitis and some even tell their elderly patients to avoid foods containing nuts and/or seeds.

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Blood pressure testing tool (Image: blood pressure image by Ivonne Wierink from Fotolia.com)

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