When Should I see a Specialist about my Stomach Issues?
What's the difference between a stomach ache and more serious causes of abdominal pain? Abdominal pain is a common symptom, and although it’s not usually a cause for concern, it can be a sign of a more serious condition that needs medical attention. How can you tell the difference?
Common Stomach Problems
You may experience stomach problems due to common causes that are not serious such as:
- Stomach virus
- Food allergies
- Lactose-related pains
Symptoms Related to Normal Stomach Issues
Normal stomach issues typically come along with certain symptoms.
- Stomach Ache With Bloating: Normally, gas passes through the anus. Stomach aches with bloating can occur when gas is trapped in your digestive system. It’s a common problem that can be easily treated with an over-the-counter medicine that relieves gas. Dietary changes can also help relieve gas buildup.
- Sudden Stomach Cramps With Diarrhea: If you experience stomach cramps along with diarrhea, you may have a stomach virus. Also known as gastroenteritis, it’s a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel. Gastroenteritis should improve without treatment after several days.
When Should You Seek Medical Help?
If your stomach ache lasts more than several days, see a doctor, as it might be an indication of a more serious medical condition.
Sudden and severe abdominal pain could signal a more serious problem that can quickly worsen without treatment. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor or visit an emergency room, especially if the pain is concentrated in one area. Call 911 immediately if your abdomen hurts after you’ve had an injury there or if you have chest pain.
Conditions that could be mistaken for a common bellyache, but need medical attention include:
- Appendicitis: When the appendix becomes inflamed and swells, it can cause serious pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen. Immediate medical attention is needed, and the appendix may have to be removed.
- Stomach ulcer bleeding: A bleeding or perforated stomach ulcer, which is actually a sore in your stomach lining or small intestine, needs quick medical care.
- Gallbladder inflammation: Often caused by gallstones, your gallbladder needs immediate attention to determine if you have acute cholecystitis. In some cases, the gallbladder needs to be removed.
- Kidney stones: Kidney stones are small concretions that form, and many can pass through your body when you urinate. However, larger stones can block your kidney tubes, causing severe pain. You'll need medical attention to diagnose stones and to address larger kidney stones.
- Diverticulitis: When small pockets in the bowel become inflamed, medications from a healthcare professional are needed for treatment.
What Your Doctor May Do If You Seek Medical Help
Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination to determine the source of your stomach pain. Questions about your symptoms will be asked, such as the type of pain you’re having, (i.e. painful stabbing or dull ache), and the location of the pain. Your doctor will also ask about medications you’re taking, when the pain is at its worst (morning, afternoon, evening) and if shifting positions helps or makes the pain worse.
After the assessment, depending on what the doctor finds, it may be recommended that you undergo tests to further determine the cause of your pain. The tests can include stool or urine tests, blood tests, upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract x-rays, enemas, an endoscopy, an ultrasound, or CT scan.
Make an appointment today with Park Avenue Medical Professionals if you have concerns about your stomach issues. We specialize in diagnosing and treating stomach problems and can recommend customized testing and lifestyle changes needed to help improve your overall health and well-being.