Signs You Should See A Doctor About Stomach Pain
Stomach pain can be tricky for even the best doctors to diagnose, so if all youre armed with is Google, M.D., sussing out whats causing your discomfort can be hard. For starters, stomach pain is a pretty broad description. Are we talking a mild yet persistent twinge or a cramps-that-hurt-so-badly-youre-on-the-floor kind of situation? Then theres the fact that stomach pain can crop up pretty much anywhere in your abdomen, and health issues that cause problems in one part of your belly might not affect others. These seemingly little nuances all matter when it comes to narrowing down what could be behind your stomach pain.
If youre struggling with stomach pain that makes you wonder if you should see a doctor, you probably should. Nothing beats an evaluation from an expert. That said, its understandable that you might want to have some inkling of what may be going on before then. Here are some common types of stomach pain you can experience, plus the health issues that could be behind them.
General Abdominal Pain With Diarrhea
Possible explanation: gastroenteritis
What is it: In simplest terms, gastroenteritis is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, typically involving the stomach and/or small intestine. Most of the time gastroenteritis is caused by a virus norovirus is one example of a common cause. The viral infection causes the inflammation, and that, in turn, causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sometimes vomiting.
Treatment: As a generally non-serious condition, gastroenteritis is often treated by focusing on managing diarrhea and any other symptoms. A central aspect of this treatment is counteracting the dehydration that often accompanies the infection by pushing fluids. In the past, doctors recommended diet changes such as the BRAT diet, but this is no longer the generally accepted practice.
Treatment For Abdominal Pain
Treatment for abdominal pain will depend on the cause. Medications can be prescribed to help alleviate pain and other symptoms, and antibiotics can help to clear up bacterial infections.
Digestive disorders will require medications as well as dietary and lifestyle changes to minimize acid reflux and intestinal inflammation. When the pain is linked to a heart condition, the underlying condition needs to be addressed. This can involve medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as dietary changes to promote heart health.
You can prevent abdominal pain by promoting overall heart and digestive health through the following lifestyle changes:
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet Staying hydrated
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When To See A Doctor About Abdominal Pain
If your abdominal pain is concerning to you, dont hesitate to to set up an evaluation. You can also use this website to request an appointment.
Its likely that you or a loved one will suffer abdominal pain at some point during your life. Usually, you know what caused it. Maybe theres a bug going around the office or you ate something that didnt agree with you. In some cases, however, abdominal pain can signal a serious condition that requires medical intervention.
If you have any doubt about your abdominal pain, contact our office in Annapolis, Maryland. Our friendly staff at Digestive Disorders Associates can help schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists if your symptoms suggest its the right step.
How Did That Happen
Specialists spend the majority of their time in medical school and training focusing on their area of specialty. They learn the intricacies of their chosen body system, the diseases and conditions that affect their chosen body system, and the ways to heal their chosen body system. They spend years concentrating on that specialty. Once they finish medical training, they continue learning about their one specific body system by reading medical journals that address the same body system, networking with other physicians in their specialty areas, and attending conferences and additional coursework that furthers their knowledge about their body system.
Because they concentrate so completely on that one body system, they don’t learn the intricacies of the other body systems, or they lose focus on them. If a patient comes to them with familiar-to-their-specialty symptoms, but they can’t figure out what the problem is, they often don’t think to send the patient to a different specialist.
Many patients are surprised by this. Most of us assume that doctors have learned all the general information they need before they specialize. Some do, but not all. And often, that lack of general knowledge stands between a patient and her true diagnosis.
In Lydia’s case, her real medical problem would have been accurately diagnosed by a gynecologist. But neither her primary care physician nor her gastroenterologist realized they needed to send her to a GYN.
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Are You Seeing The Right Specialist
Sometimes the frustration of a misdiagnosis or being undiagnosed stems from the fact that a patient is seeing the wrong kind of specialist, one who doesn’t understand the body system the patient’s real medical problem stems from.
Consider Lydia, who complained of stomach pains for several weeks. She visited her primary care doctor who referred her to a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is a specialist who takes care of our digestive systemseverything from the stomach through the intestines through the colon.
The gastroenterologist sent Lydia for some tests, and when the results came back, he told Lydia he didn’t see any problems. He prescribed a drug to help control the nausea, and Lydia went home, hoping the nausea would go away.
Weeks went by, and Lydia’s stomach upset continued to get worse. She returned to the gastroenterologist who ran more tests, but he still was not able to identify her problem. She returned to her primary care doctor who told her he couldn’t find anything either.
At the point where she began to dehydrate from vomiting, Lydia’s husband took her to the emergency room. A CT scan revealed ovarian cancer.
The primary care doctor had missed it. The gastroenterologist had missed it. Both were focused on the digestive system and stomach upset and didn’t consider a problem that might stem from Lydia’s female reproductive system.
Dont Ignore These Symptoms
Digestive system symptoms usually dont appear as isolated events. Most often, several occur around the same time. Its the combination along with targeted testing that helps your gastroenterologist make an accurate diagnosis. Some symptoms, when they occur with other symptoms, can signal a severe illness.If you experience any of the conditions below, you should schedule an appointment with a reputable gastroenterologist like our doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology.
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Intense Stomach Pain In Lower Abdomen
If one experiences a high level of pain in the lower abdomen that is relieved once the bowels are moved, it could be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome .
IBS involves a change in the normal functioning of the digestive system and is related to how the brain and the gut work together.
Those with IBS tend to have more sensitive guts resulting in changes in muscular contraction in the bowels. Symptoms include bloating, constipation, and persistent stomac pain, among others.
Due to the fact that stomach cramps that subside after the moving of ones bowels can be a sign of constipation, the lines between IBS and ordinary constipation can become a little blurred.
If constipation is something you find reoccurring on a regular basis then a visit to the doctor may do you some good in helping to clear up the causes and looking at possible solutions.
Why Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain Or Gi Discomfort
We know through research there is a strong connection between our brain and our gut through the central nervous system. The enteric nervous system an out-branching of the central nervous system serves the GI tract, making a direct connection between our brain and gastrointestinal system. That connection can cause normal physiologic processes to be interpreted as painful under stressful or anxiety-provoking situations.
When were stressed, hormones and neurotransmitters are released in the body. This can negatively impact gut motility, or the way our intestines and stomach squeeze and move waste through the body. Also, stress can affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut, causing GI discomfort.
People experiencing chronic stress may also eat more or eat unhealthy foods with a higher amount of natural and artificial sugar that is poorly digested and causes GI distress. People may also smoke and drink more alcohol or caffeine than normal which can cause symptoms.
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Who Is A Gastroenterologist
From the name, you should be able to deduce that a gastroenterologist has a lot to do with the gastrointestinal tract.
To be exact, a gastroenterologist is a physician who is specially trained and has had experience in managing the diseases of the gastrointestinal tract including the esophagus, stomach, intestines, colon, rectum, and related organs like the liver and pancreas.
The training of gastroenterologists is often internal and involves more than 5 years of additional education in internal medicine and gastroenterology after medical school.
After their years of training and practical experience, these specialists are adept at so many methods that can be used to alleviate discomfort and manage the problems of the gastrointestinal tract.
They use a number of treatment options like medications, lifestyle modifications, and some special procedures like colonoscopy, endoscopy and others to treat patients suffering from any gastrointestinal problem.
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When Should You Go To The Hospital For Stomach Pain
So the first thing I’m going to do of course is find out more about the stomachache, when did it start, where does it hurt. Have there been any other symptoms with it like fever or any pain elsewhere, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain with urination, any blood in the urine or in the stool. So these are all kind of things I’m doing to try and figure out, “Okay, what could be causing this sort of pain?”
The next thing often that I’m doing is, not often always, is a physical examination. So I’m examining this person trying to push on their abdomen and I really focus on certain areas because these areas will make me think of different things. If I push on the right lower side of their abdomen and it hurts, I’m thinking of appendicitis.
On the right upper side I’m thinking of the gallbladder, maybe a gallstone or an infection there. Just in the upper part of the abdomen, just kind of down below the ribs there where you feel a little notch that little bone there. Thinking about the pancreas there. It could be causing some symptoms.
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Bleeding And Ruptured Blood Vessels
The stomach is full of blood vessels, including the aorta, which is the bodys largest blood vessel.
A ruptured aortic aneurysm occurs when a bulge in the aorta breaks. An aortic dissection happens when something cuts or punctures the aorta. Sustaining any tear or rupture in the stomachs blood vessels is a life-threatening emergency.
The main symptom of a ruptured blood vessel in the stomach is sudden, unexplained, extreme pain. Some people also experience shortness of breath, a racing heart, and dizziness.
People who know they have an abdominal aneurysm should treat any stomach pain as an emergency. On arrival at the emergency room, they must tell the physician about the aneurysm.
Upper Stomach Pain Or Burning Sensation
Possible explanation: peptic ulcer
What is it: Peptic ulcers occur when damage to the lining of the stomach results in painful sores. The stomach is normally coated with a layer of thick mucus that serves as a barrier between the lining itself and the caustic digestive juices. When the mucus barrier is compromised, which can happen as a result of infection, heavy drinking, smoking, aspirin, or a variety of other digestive illnesses, the digestive juices can actually eat away at the stomach lining. The resulting sores cause stomach pain and even potentially bleeding.
Treatment: Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but most treatment options focus on neutralizing or reducing stomach acid enough so that the sores can heal. In the case of infection, antibiotics may also be used.
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Sharp Pain In The Lower Right Side Of The Abdomen
Possible explanation: appendicitis
What is it: Once universally believed to be a vestigial organ, the appendix is now thought to play a role in maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora. The appendix can sometimes become inflamed, either because of infection or a blockage in its hollow chamber, and bacteria can build up inside. If it bursts, the bacteria causing the inflammation is released into the abdominal cavity, causing a variety of potential complications. Pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, along with other possible symptoms such as nausea and fever, is a telltale sign of acute appendicitis.
Treatment: Because of the danger related to the appendix bursting, treatment is necessary as soon after the onset of the symptoms as possible. In some cases, antibiotics can be effective in treating the condition, but the majority of the time an appendectomy is necessary.
What Tests Will Help You Reach A Diagnosis
After assessing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will have a better idea of which tests are most likely to lead to a diagnosis. These tests matter because many disorders of the digestive tract have overlapping symptoms and can be misdiagnosed.
Careful testing will help guide your doctor to the correct diagnosis.
Some GI tests are:
- abdominal imaging tests using ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI
- barium swallow, or upper GI series, using X-rays to look at your upper GI tract
- upper GI endoscopy to diagnose and treat problems in your upper GI tract
- barium enema, an imaging test that uses X-rays to look at your lower GI tract
- sigmoidoscopy, a test to check the lower part of your colon
- colonoscopy, a procedure that checks the inside of your entire large intestine
- fecal, urine, and blood analysis
- pancreatic function tests
Further questions to ask about testing:
- Whats the procedure like? Is it invasive? Do I have to do anything to prepare?
- How and when can I expect results?
- Will the results be definitive or is it just to exclude something?
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The Pain Is Especially Intense During Your Period And Has Been Getting Worse Over The Years
Cramps can be a normal part of having a period, and hopefully, if yours are extreme, youve already seen a doctor. But its also worth noting that you should see someone if your cramps have sneakily gotten worse over time, Lauren Streicher, M.D., a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Universitys Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. If your cramps are worse now than they were a year ago , it could be a sign of a condition like endometriosis. Endometriosis is thought to happen when tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of your uterus on other organs. That can lead to unbelievable pain that can show up in a variety of ways, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains: period cramps, pain when you go to the bathroom, chronic pain in your lower back and pelvis, and pain during sex, along with other issues like heavy bleeding.
Keep in mind that the exact way endometriosis pain feels can vary from person to person. Its usually worse during a period and can feel sharp and cramping, Dr. Streicher says. But, for some people, its more like a dull, throbby pain. Its also not always worse during a persons periodsometimes its just bad throughout the month. There are ways to treat endometriosis pain, so dont write it off as something you just need to deal with. Try to find an endometriosis specialist who can help.
The Pain Is Sudden Sharp And On One Side Of Your Pelvis Followed By Dull Pain In Your Lower Abdomen
Sometimes this specific type of stomach pain signals a ruptured ovarian cyst. Ovarian cysts are masses that often form from the follicles that are a key part of ovulation, per the Mayo Clinic. If a follicle grows in preparation for ovulation but doesnt actually burst to release an egg, as it should, that can create a cyst. Other times, cysts form when a follicle does burst but continues to accumulate fluid. Even though it sounds kind of bonkers, this isnt always an issue. Sometimes ovarian cysts dont cause any symptoms and eventually go away on their own, the Mayo Clinic explains. But if one bursts, it can hurt. A lot.
A ruptured ovarian cyst is associated with sharp pains, which will last for a whilefollowed by some dull pains, Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells SELF. The pains are often on the side, but the lasting discomfort tends to be toward the middle. This can vary, thoughheres more of a deep dive into how ovarian cyst pain can present.
A ruptured ovarian cyst isnt necessarily a problem, but if its especially painful or if you also experience fever, vomiting, cold and clammy skin, rapid breathing, and lightheadedness, call your doctor to see if they can get your ovaries in line or address whatever else may be causing your stomach pain.
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Different Types Of Stomach Pain And How To Treat Them
Having a tummy ache is one of the most common human medical experiences. Whether from eating too much junk food as a kid or acquiring some kind of virus, we all know what its like to suddenly be racked with stomach problems. Its also pretty universally understood that not all stomach pain is the same. By considering the type and location and severity of the pain, and by noting any accompanying symptoms, its possible to narrow down the possible causes. Below are 8 different kinds of stomach pain that range from relatively common to relatively rare: