This article discusses clues to diagnosing the cause and severity of abdominal pain. See Abdominal pain for a detailed discussion of the potential causes and what to do for your symptoms.
Abdominal pain can represent many different types of problems besides a simple stomach ache. It can even be from pain in the pelvis (like menstrual cramps), back (like Kidney stones), or chest (like a Heart attack or heartburn). Some of the key information to diagnose abdominal pain includes:
- Aggravating factors - that is, what makes it feel worse?
- Relieving factors - in other words, what makes it feel better?
- Onset - -namely, when did it begin?
- Duration - - how long does it last when you have it? Related to this, therefore, is whether the pain is constant or comes and goes?
- Quality of the pain - in other words, what does the pain feel like? Is it sharp, dull, crampy, etc.?
- Accompanying symptoms - that is, do you also have nausea, Vomiting, diarrhea, Constipation, blood in your stool, etc.?
Two common conditions that you may worry about if you have abdominal pain are appendicitis or an ulcer. An inflamed appendix generally starts with pain in the center of the abdomen, around the umbilicus (belly button), followed by loss of appetite and nausea and then by fever. As appendicitis worsens, the pain generally migrates to the right lower abdomen. An inflamed appendix can rupture and should be treated as a medical emergency.
Ulcers often produce pain in the upper, central abdomen (called the epigastrium), a few hours after eating or during the night. Taking antacids may relieve the pain. The risks from an ulcer include bleeding or rupture.
Call your local emergency room (such as 911) if:
- Your pain is severe, sudden and sharp.
- You have a fever along with your pain.
- You are Vomiting blood or have bloody diarrhea.
- You have a rigid, hard abdomen that is tender to touch.
- You are unable to pass stool, especially if you are also Vomiting.
- You have chest, neck, or shoulder pain.
- You are dizzy or lightheaded.
Call your doctor if:
- You have nausea and lack of appetite.
- You have yellowing of your eyes or skin.
- You have bloating for more than 2 days.
- You have diarrhea for more than 5 days. (Or if your infant or child has had diarrhea for 2 days, Vomiting for 12 hours; call right away if your newborn - under 3 months - has diarrhea or Vomiting.)
- You have had abdominal discomfort for more than one week.
- You have burning with urination or you are urinating more often than usual.
- You have painful menstrual periods.
- You may be pregnant.
- Your pain gets worse when you take antacids or eat something.
- You are unintentionally losing weight.
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.