1536712 tn?1294043301

Itchy all over and stomach troubles - liver and bile duct tests fine.

Hi! I'm 35 years old and a mother of 3.

For a month now I've been itchy all over - more or less. From scalp to soles of feet, but it's vaxing and vaning...
I went to se my doc, he did some bloodwork to rule out 'liver or bile duct trouble', as he put it. I got a message from him that the tests were all normal.

After the visit at the doc I've started getting stomach upset - I've been having it before too (IBS-like symptoms)  - often run to the toilet shortly after meals, sometimes no result, sometimes....well, result...
I've been having this ache in my upper/upper right stomach for some time now, and also in my back.
I also get nauseus after meals sometimes.

I've also discovered that both the stomach-stuff and the itching seems to bother me when I eat fat. Not just like totally unhealthy stuff ike chocolate, but salmon, salad with olive oil and such things too. At least I think so - it's hard to pinpoint the triggers sometimes...

The itch also gets horrible when I work out, probably because of the sweating, so I haven't done that for quite some time.

I also have really sore muscles in almost all my upper body, have been having that before, too - but not for a year or so. My ribcage-area, neck, upper arms etc. are sore and tender to touch.

My grandma died from pnacreatic cancer, and I'm kinda scared that's it.

I wonder - itching in pancreatic cancer, does it come from bile ducts? Or could it still be it, even if the liver and gall-tests were fine?

I'm seeing my doc again in a couple of weeks - what should I ask from him?
17 Responses
1536712 tn?1294043301
Nobody has got any thoughts on this?

I can see now that I wrote upper/upper right stomach - I'd now say upper middle/upper left... Hm. It's tender to touch the area - would it be so if it was the pancreas causing it? (I believe that is placed further 'back' in the body...?).

I'm seeing my doc in a few days, and would really value some insights to bring to the consultation...
Avatar universal
Given that it's moving around a bit, I'd say it likely pointing towards an IBS issue. As you're probably aware, our colon runs up the right-side, then traverses over and down the left-side. And you seem to be feeling things all along this route. Whether or not this is a more severe IBD vs IBS is something to talk to the doctor about.

But your gallbladder and bile-ducts could be part of your consult discussion too. If there is a "minor" obstruction occurring, this can also produce what you've indicated including a "dull ache"  - especially with fatty food. Also, this will tend to produce sticky, floating stools as well. But a very large, acute obstruction will definitely get your attention with the: "sharp" pain, pronouncely elevated liver enzymes and grey/white stools - you haven't noted these which is good!

As for the itching, well it's winter and you live in Norway? I have crazy bile issues myself that are noted for causing horrible itching throughout the body. So I drive myself crazy trying to decide if the itching is more that what I would be expected this time of year or not. Just my thinking about it probably causes me to scratch from time-to-time, but so far so good.

Good luck on your consult and try not to worry about your family's pancreatic cancer history. My doctor's are chasing a "suspected" similar cancer in me (cholangiocarcinoma) so I'm familiar with this type of thing and what they're likely looking for and your numbers/symptoms would have to be much more pronounced.
1536712 tn?1294043301
Thank you so much for your answer! It really means a lot, and you managed to calm me down a bit... ;)

It's winter in Norway for sure, but I shouldn't be itchy inside hands and unmentionable places and inside my ears and nose...? Never was before, so something is off, I think.. And if I go half a day without eating, I hardly itch at all... I sure hope my doc has something sensible to suggest/test for/fix ;)

The stomach-stuff is very up and down, and I suspect it being connected to my menstrual cycle somehow - seems it gets worse around ovulation and better come period and a bit after... Hm.

Maybe my doc can run the same tests again, to see if there is change in my numbers?

I'll return to let you know after the visit ;)
Avatar universal
If your doctor does detect some bile flow issues, itching can be in play as you already know. What's interesting is that it doesn't seem to correlate well to the severity of the primary problem, be it liver related, etc. Some PSC'er (my particular problem) can be in early-stages of the duct/liver disease progression but be absolutely tormented by the itching. Others like myself who are end-stage might not notice anything at all. Strange stuff. But there are some treatments that can be used, should that prove to be applicable in your case.

Good luck with your visit and yes, let us know.
1536712 tn?1294043301
Saw my doc today, without becoming much wiser... He ordered some allergy-bloodwork (to test for milk, nut and some other allergies), and prescribed me antihistamines.

He also went through all the bloodwork that was done last time - quite a lot, apparently! Liver, bilirubin, kidneys, white bloodcells, colesterole, bloodsugar, hemoglobine... all normal.

He seems to think that my itch has one cause, and that my epigastric/bowel issues have another cause. Typically doctors, maybe - not seeing everything i connection...?

Anyhow, he told me to use the antihistamines for a couple of weeks, and return if they don't help me. He also told me to stay off milk. I hardly ever drink any milk, though - all I have is cottage cheese and yoghurt and such, and some milk in food, but I never drink milk. So I don't know...

Since the tests was taken only a month ago, he didn't order new ones of the ones I already had.

No bile flow issues detected, as liver and bilirubin tests were all normal. So I'm no wiser - can I itch after meals from IBS??
Avatar universal
Well at least you can take comfort in knowing your liver, pancreas and related plumbing all seem to be in good order. It is frustrating though not haven't a diagnosis to conclude things.

As far as the IBS/itching connection, who knows and maybe you are allergic to something in your diet? Seems that the plan to use the antihistamines and changes in your food is your only option. Btw, wrt your pain meds, do they cause you any bowel issues at all: constipation, etc? I know some forms of pain medications can present quite a bit of trouble like this, I'm not familiar with yours though.
1536712 tn?1294043301
I'm not using any pain meds, so no danger of side effects... ;)

I'm trying to eliminate different things in my diet, and what I have detected is that there is one "sinner": fat.

Haven't heard back from my doc about the allergy tests yet, and am not really sure what do to next - order a new doc-appt?

I don't itch very much when staying very low on fat, but if I have some chocolate or red meat or something, then it gets worse. I also feel the pain/discomfort in my upper stomach/epigastric area much more then.

Avatar universal
That sure sounds familar. When I have bad periods of slow bile flow, fatty diets can cause issues. Maybe suggest to your doctor a gallbladder function test, several to chose from. If your gallbladder or bile excretory system is "lazy" then your fatty observations make sense. Just a thought.
1536712 tn?1294043301
Yes, I think I have to talk to my doc and tell him about the fat intolerance-factor. But strange then, that the bilirubin and liver tests and everything was fine on the tests taken in November..?
1536712 tn?1294043301
I received the allergy test results today - the only thing that I'm allergic too is grass pollen (timothy). No shock, I've been reacting to grass since I was a little child ;)

BUT my doc said that with a pollen allergy comes a higher risk of other sensitivities, and he strongly suggested that I stay away from both milk and wheat for quite some time, to see if my symptoms improved. He believed that my itching could be caused by wheat sensitivity, and my bowel issues from milk seinsitivity...

I have a new do appt. scheduled on monday, where I planned to bring the fat-thing up. But now I wonder if I should postpone the appt. on monday to give the doctor's 'no milk or wheat'.plan a chance? I reckon if I try that out first, my doc will be more attentive to other suggestions...?
And, for all I know (and I TRULY hope so!), I might get better?

My plan for this weekend is to eat nothing containing the slightest bit of milk or wheat, and then eat a lot of nuts, for instance - to see what happens symptom wise.

Any thoughts?
Avatar universal
What you're doing makes sense. My GI is so screwed up and my motility is crazy long that I've also slowly played with various items in my diet to see what works and what needs to go. And milk got tossed out many years ago for me. Anything at all with it gets my attention and I can point to areas of my abdomen to locate where the milk has progressed, it's that bad.
1536712 tn?1294043301
Ah - I feel quite relieved today, actually. I found the courage to read some info-pages on pancreatic cancer, and under 'symptoms' they all stated that 'if the tumor is pressing on/blocking the bile ducts, the patient might get jaundice and/or itching, as the bile spreads into the blood'.

Which is great news for me, since blood tests have stated that the levels of bile (bilirubin) in my blood is completely normal :)

About the diet-thing, I'm kinda thinking that I'll stay very very low fat, but also eliminate wheat/rhye/barley - because I want to see if it changes anything...
About milk - my doc didn't say but do I have to cut all dairy? (I know I'm not lactose intolerant, he tested me for that...) Or just the pure milk? (I really love fruit topped with cottage cheese you see, and if I can't have any bread or anything, and nothing fat, and also no dairy - well, then I might get reeeeeally skinny... ;)
1536712 tn?1294043301
Well, I'm still here... Haven't posted on here for a long time, haven't been very active online since going back to work after maternity leave..

But I've been almost certain that I had pancreatic cancer for quite some time now. I often have stinging/aching pain in my upper left abdomen (behind ribs), it goes through to the back, and lately I've been having much pain below my left shoulder blade too.
Oh, and I still itch as soon as I eat anything with fat in it - starting to get very very annoying, having to eat absolutely fat free..

But today I've been to an ultrasound check, she did a quite thorough exam of my entire upper abdomen, and concluded that bile ducts are narrow and fine, milt and pancreas are fine, and she could see absolutely nothing to worry about. (And she also stated that I was 'very easy to scan' - because I'm slim and also it was something about few elements blocking the view...didn't quite get that... ;) )

So what is causing this??? She mentioned that the pain could possibly be from costochondritis? But that was just a wild guess, I think, she also mentioned kidney stones or muscle pain. Well, she only read my main doc's very brief description of the problem, and I have to discuss with my doc what to do now...

I'm afraid my doc will say that there is nothing to do but prescribe a stronger pain killer... But I don't want that, I want to know the cause...!
Avatar universal
Bummer things haven't got back to normal yet for you. So the dietary limitation approach wasn't much help either? You mention fat but does it mean all fats or just animal, etc?

And did your doctors include the basic tumor markers along with the rest of the recent blood work? For pancreatic or bile duct cancers, these would be: CA19-9, CEA. I would think that if they did, and all was normal again, you really have no other recourse but to continue on with things until you next checkup.

The diagnostic process isn't much fun, especially when you're not feeling normal but all tests show nothing. Hopefully your doctors will finally stumble onto a simple benign cause behind your abdominal pain and discomfort.
1536712 tn?1294043301
Hi, fntn, and thant you so much for your response :)

It seems to be all fats, and as long as I stay veeeeery low on fat, the itching stays away.

I havenæt had much blood work done since november, I don't have the entire overview on which tests were ordered then, but probably not that very specific one..

The thing is that some of my symptoms I recognize from several years back, such as the upset stomach after some meals. I didn't realize then that it was the fat causing it, but it got better for quite some time, and now it's worse that it have been... I wonder if it's possible that it's some kind of hormonal thing? Seems I get worse about a year after giving birth - my middle kid was about a year the first time I had a bad spell, and now again with my yongest...

Anyway, if there were a tumor on my pancreas causing all this, having been there for several years, I would think it would show on the ultrasound!?

I've kinda decided to relax and believe that I'm not terminally ill - since both blood tests (bile ducts, liver test, whit blood cells etc etc) and the ultrasound were all fine, and also since I've been having strange symptoms before without being ill... (Back when my middle kid was little and I started having different symptoms, my doc ended up believing I might have fibromyalgia (after MRI's because of headaches and dizziness, all kinds of bloodwork because of aches, pains and fatigue, colon tests because of stomach trouble...). So maybe that's it? Or something hormonal, as I said? Or I might be low on some vitamine or something? (Vitamine D deficiency was the only diagnose I got last time, and now I think I'll find a strong multi vitamine to take, and also maybe iron?)
1536712 tn?1294043301
Long time since I wrote anything here - I'm no better at all! I eat close to no fat, and the itching stays away (but today I celebrated my 6 years olds bithday, and had some ice cream and a brownie - and MY OH MY the itching!!!).

But I suffer from quite a lot of pain in (mainly) my upper left abdomen, and also my back (upper left, mainy). It comes and goes, but the tenderness and discomfort is always there. And then sometimes the pain gets really bad, I don't know why...

I saw my doc again, presenting this bothering pain localized mainly around my bottom rib. He sent me to have an ultrasound of my epigastric area, and also a lung-x-ray.

Everything looked fine.

I'm seeing the doc again this week (not my regular, but a young doc filling in..)
I have nothing else to do then to tell her how I am - but what will and can she do? Order new blood tests to look for changes since this fall?
Avatar universal
Have them check for mesenteric lesions. They can be very subtle wrt imaging, and vague abdominal pain is their signature, but not much in the blood work. They are rare as well though. Just a thought. Take care.
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