Stomach ache? Are you sure? We can be too quick to call any abdominal pain a "stomach ache." It's important to understand what's actually going on inside your belly. This post serves a general overview of common conditions that involve stomach ache and what symptoms should be a cause for concern. We also outline when and how to get support.
Stomach ailments and conditions are very difficult for non-medical professionals to monitor and understand because we have not been trained with an awareness of the different components that make up the abdominal region. Whenever people have pain in their abdomen they typically refer to it as stomach pain, which is not always the case. The abdomen is not only comprised of the stomach, but also the liver, spleen, gall bladder, large and small intestines, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder (these are only the major components!). So while mild "stomach" pain is usually nothing to worry about, it's important to be aware that it could be something else. With this in mind, you should have open communication with a doctor about your experiences of pain.
Common causes of sudden or severe abdominal pain
Menstrual Pain (Period Pain)
- If you're a woman, you are probably all too familiar with this. Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) can cause excruciating pain, potentially as bad as a heart attack, but are not dangerous to a woman's health.
- Society is often quick to devalue the debilitating pain associated with menstrual cramps.
- Click here for more information on how to deal with menstrual cramps, and the stigma surrounding them.
Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Common and not very serious.
- If you have sudden stomach cramps with diarrhea, it's pretty likely that you have food poisoning or a stomach flu. Technically speaking, this is either a bacterial or a viral infection of your stomach. Regardless of how you treat the situation, it should get better after a few days– even without treatment.
- If you frequently get stomach cramps with diarrhea, you should speak to a doctor as it's likely that it's not gastroenteritis. If this is the case, the next most probable diagnosis is the long term condition of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Extremely painful, but not too serious if handled when pain is noticed.
- Stones of minerals and salt form in your kidney and can get stuck in your urinary tract. If you have blood in your urine, can't sit comfortably, or are nauseous and vomiting, you should talk to a doctor.
- Common and manageable, but very serious.
- This is the swelling of the appendix which causes crippling pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen. In this circumstance your appendix will need to be removed.
- Upon being exposed to the idea of this condition, people tend to get over worried and associate any abdominal pain with the possibility of appendicitis. There is no need to do this. Just be sure to report any significant pain to a doctor and there'll be no need to worry about this.
- Common, especially over age 40, and not usually serious.
- Small pouches form in the lining of the digestive system, usually in the large intestine.
- Complications can arise if these pouches become infected or inflamed. This is what results in severe abdominal pain, as well as fever, nausea and changes in patterns of bowel movement.
- Usually an antibiotic will suffice for treatment of such an infection, but sometimes surgery is required.
Common causes of mild and dull pain
Bloating and flatulence
- Very common and not serious.
- Air gets trapped inside of us as we go about living our lives. This occurs most commonly through eating, and is made worse by foods that are difficult to digest. This can lead to cramps with bloating. The air must be released through farting. This is a normal process. If you feel insecure about your flatulence or feel particularily gassy, read on and consult a doctor.
- Do your best to reduce your salt consumption, since it makes you retain water, and avoid foods that cause gas, like beans and broccoli (and of course lactose, if you're lactose intolerant).
- Treatment: Buscopan or Mebeverine. These are effective solutions that can be bought over the counter. If you have any allergies to medication, be sure to consult a doctor or pharmacist.
- Very common and not serious unless it continues for a long period of time
- Difficulty, perhaps inability, initiating bowel movements. There are many factors that influence the nature of bowel movements. Some causes of constipation include: changes in your usual diet or routine, not enough water or fiber in your diet, eating too many dairy products, pregnancy, some medications, stress.
- Treatment options:mild over the counter laxative like Metamucil or Ducalax. If you'd prefer to use more natural methods for solving constipation eating prunes or drinking prune juice is also a good option.
- Uncommon, but not rare, and potentially serious.
- If you frequently have a pain that goes away when you eat something, it’s probably more than just hunger. You should talk to a doctor because it could be a mild stomach ulcer that should be dealt with it before it becomes more serious– a bleeding or perforated stomach ulcer.
Serious symptoms: general indicators for when to see a doctor
If you have any of the following conditions accompanied by stomach pain, you should consult a doctor:
- you are pregnant
- constant vomiting
- vomiting blood
- trouble breathing
- yellowing skin and the whites of your eyes
- swelling of your stomach
- bloody bowel movements
If you are someone that has been suffering from persistent and disruptive abdominal pain, you should consult a doctor. If you are in too much pain to leave your home, or don't have time to leave the office, you can talk to a licensed doctor on RingMD from wherever you are. Our doctors can provide you with world class medical advice, and depending on where you are, they may also be able to write you a medical certificate and online prescription. We're here to help.
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