Stomach Pain – Symptoms, Causes, risk factors, and diagnosis
Abdominal pain is common nowadays – everyone has it in one time or another but the big question here is …
Is every cause of abdominal pain worrisome? If not, then what are the symptoms that indicate the seriousness of your abdominal pain? In other words, how to know whether your abdominal pain can be a sign of serious illness? Let us try to answer these and many more such questions pertaining to your abdominal pain.
If you know the symptoms to watch out for, you will be in a better position to understand what needs to be done – which means, you will get medical help in time. The important thing to know about abdominal pain is when you need to see an abdominal pain specialist Hyderabad.
Types of Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can be in upper, lower, left or right side of abdomen. The intensity of abdominal pain can range from mild pain to acute, chronic and severe acute pain. The following are the types of abdominal pain:
- Generalized pain —
Pain extended to more than half of the area of your abdomen is generalized pain. This type of pain is seen in cases of gas, indigestion and stomach infection (viral infections).
- Localized pain is often confined to one area of the abdomen (abdominal pain in a specific area) and it could be due to problem with any organ of the abdomen such as stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder or appendix.
- Abdominal cramps or cramp-like pain may be due to bloating, gas and also due to diarrhoea. This type of pain is not very serious, but if the pain lasts for more than a day or occurs more often and associated with fever, then you should take it seriously.
- Colicky pain comes and ends abruptly. It comes in the forms of waves. It is very severe at times. This type of pain could be a typical indication of gallstones or kidney stones.
What are the causes of abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain is a bit tricky prospect to deal with because it doesn’t always mean any serious health issue (which means, most of the time a serious health issue is not the cause). Furthermore, the severity and intensity of the pain doesn’t always indicate severity of the health issue causing it. Sometimes, even mild and recurrent abdominal pain can indicate a serious health issue. Therefore, getting into the details of abdominal pain is very important. Your abdominal pain can be due to many causes – whether it is dull, sharp pain, cramps or shooting abdominal pain doesn’t matter – knowing the cause is important.
What are the less serious causes of abdominal pain?
Whenever you have stomach pain, it doesn’t mean that something very serious is to blame – as the less serious causes of stomach pain include stomach virus (viral gastroenteritis), food allergies, gas, constipation, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and food poisoning.
Stomach virus causes viral gastroenteritis – owing to which a person may have abdominal cramps and gas and the pain associated with this condition is very bad and severe.
What are the causes of abdominal pain in women?
In some cases – especially in women – an abdominal pain may not be due to abdominal issues as premenstrual syndrome, severe menstrual cramps, urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ruptured ovarian cyst, endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), endometriosis and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy and even more serious problems like heart attack can also cause abdominal pain in women.
What are the other causes of abdominal pain?
The other causes of abdominal pain include bacterial infections, viral infections, ischemic colitis, poisoning, kidney stones, gallbladder stones, hernia, diverticulitis, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), a bowel blockage (obstruction), appendicitis and abdominal aortic aneurysm. Stomach cancer and ovarian cancer in women can also cause abdominal pain. Colon cancer in the early stages may cause only mild or no pain at all – even with the early case of appendicitis.
What are the common causes of abdominal pain?
In general, the most common or typical causes of abdominal pain include indigestion, gas, bloating, infections, food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance and Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease – ulcerative colitis).
When Should You Contact Abdominal Pain Specialist Doctor?
Seek medical help or consult your physician if your abdominal pain lasts for more than a week or longer.
You should seek medical help or consult a gastroenterologist if you constantly feel abdominal pain, which doesn’t go away and keeps on coming back. In addition, if you have abdominal pain associated with chest pain, call your doctor.
If you have fever, vomiting, pain during urination, dark-coloured urine, urinating frequently, feeling thirsty (signs of dehydration), then you should see your physician.
If you have abdominal discomfort – which is more frequent, severe and augmenting day by day – with recurrent episodes accompanied with nausea and vomiting; if the symptoms don’t improve within 36 to 48 hours, seek medical help.
You should seek immediate medical help if your abdominal pain is associated with chest pain, neck pain and shoulder pain – especially if you are a woman.
The other symptoms that warrant a visit to the physician include persistent abdominal pain lasting for more than a week or longer; persistent bloating for two to three days; diarrhea for more than 4 to 5 days; fever; poor appetite and unexplained weight loss.
How does your doctor diagnose the cause of abdominal pain?
Your doctor does complete and thorough physical examination. He or she may ask you about all the symptoms that you have. The doctor will ask you about the nature and severity of the pain – whether it is dull, sharp, stabbing or severe pain, continuous or intermittent
Your gastroenterologist will ask you the following questions:
How often do you feel pain?
Does your pain increase with any activity, after eating, lying down or lying on one side?
Does your pain eases after eating, taking rest or lying on one side?
Do you have any injury of late?
Do you take any supplements or medications?
Do you feel pain in one area of your abdominal or throughout?
Does your abdominal pain move to back, groin and buttocks?
Do you experience pain during menstruation or before?
How often do you feel pain?
When do you feel pain – is it in the morning, evening or throughout the day?
Do you feel pain always?
Since how long do you have the pain?
Have you tried any medicine; did it work?
Where do you feel pain – is it left side, right side, lower abdomen or upper abdomen
Do you take any medicines – antacids, aspirin, antibiotics, pain killers
When was your last bowel movement?
Have you travelled out of the country of late?
Do you drink alcohol? Coffee? Tea?
Do you smoke cigarettes?
Abdominal pain can be generalized, localized, sudden, colicky and crampy and can have many causes – which may or may not be linked to your abdomen – and, may or may not be very serious. Sometimes, even a mild abdominal pain can be an indication of life-threatening condition – and, sometimes, more severe debilitating abdominal pain can be due to less serious health condition. In some cases, no specific cause is determined. Whatever may be the cause, location, intensity and circumstances of your abdominal pain, it is always better to seek medical help to rule out any serious health issue.
MBBS, MD (General Medicine), DM (Gastroenterology – PGI)
Chief Gastroenterologist, Hepatologist & Therapeutic Endoscopist
Medical Director, Sunshine Hospitals