Stomach pain refers to an ache or cramps in the abdomen. In most cases, it does not last long and is therefore not serious. However, when the pain becomes severe, it could be a cause for concern. Take note of the pain and any accompanying symptoms. If the pain seems to be getting worse or not abating over time, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.
It is important to know when to get medical attention, so that you can take care of any issues that would cause problems later on. We will delve into the issue a little bit more, and give you tips on how to know if stomach pain is serious.
Understanding the Abdominal Pain
If you feel any pain below your ribs and above your pelvis, you have what is known as stomach or abdominal pain. The abdomen includes the stomach, large and small intestines, liver, kidneys, among others. It also comprises of blood vessels, bones, and muscles.
The good news is that abdominal pain is normally harmless. Other times you may need relief from the symptoms and over-the-counter prescriptions will work just fine.
What Are The Causes Of Pain In Your Abdomen?
There are many reasons why you could have pain in the abdomen, and taking note of the patterns and location is important. Pains such as those caused by indigestion or a pulled muscle are generally not very serious and tend to resolve on their own. If the pain does not seem to be resolving after a few hours and continues for several days, you may need to seek medical attention.
Here are some common causes of pain in your abdomen.
- 14 Common Causes of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
Types of stomach pain
Let us explore the different types of pain in a little detail below
Acute Abdominal Pain
Acute abdominal pain will come with other symptoms and may last from a few hours to several days. Some of the conditions that would require medical attention include appendicitis, cystitis, bladder inflammation, ectopic pregnancy, and fecal impaction.
Chronic, Episodic or Intermittent Abdominal Pain
Chronic pain is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms tend to fluctuate and may not get worse over time. Some of the causes of chronic pain include gastritis, hernia; hiatal and inguinal, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, sickle cell anemia, and, ulcerative colitis.
Progressive Abdominal Pain
Progressive abdominal pain, as the name suggests, will get progressively worse over time. You should be especially worried about this because it shows that your condition is worsening. It could also be indicative of conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis, lead poisoning, pancreatic, and stomach cancer, among others.
When Should You See A Doctor?
You will need to see a doctor if the pain comes with other symptoms. Take note of the following and seek medical attention immediately they occur.
- Pressure in the chest
- Severe pain that lasts for several hours
- Any bleeding especially if you’re pregnant
- Scrotal pain in men
- Persistent vomiting especially if there is blood
- Blood in the urine or stool
- High fever and sweating
- Inability to urinate or pass stool
- Swelling or tenderness. You will notice this when you touch the location of the pain. do not ignore the symptoms because it could be indicative of a bigger problem
Diagnosing the Cause of Abdominal Pain
As indicated above, abdominal pain has so many causes, and it can be quite difficult to diagnose. Sometimes it is indicative of a bigger problem like heart attacks or pneumonia. Other times, the cause is a simple as eating the wrong kind of food.
The abdomen is also made up of so many structures and organs. , it can be especially challenging for a doctor to diagnose the exact cause of the pain. Sometimes a doctor will base his decision on the kind of answers you provide.
In other cases, the doctor will prescribe medication and send you back home without any time. In other cases, especially where the pain is progressive, the doctor may want to carry out a few tests. In some causes of the pain will be immediately apparent, other times, it will not be.
What Kind Of Tests Should You Expect?
In severe cases, the doctor will determine that you need to undergo a series of tests. Such tests include:-
- Rectal, penile or scrotal checks
- Pregnancy test, together with a check of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Blood and enzyme tests for any infections
- Urine tests
- X-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, and ECG to rule out heart attacks
- Endoscopy to check the internal organs without going through surgery.
Abdominal Pain in Children
Knowing when a child has abdominal pain can be a bit difficult, especially if they are not speaking yet. However, there are some symptoms you can watch out for that will give you a clue. The child will cry incessantly, refuse to eat, vomit, or continuously rub their stomach.
For those who can talk, they will be able to describe the symptoms. Children generally suffer from issues like constipation and gas. These issues are easy to resolve, and a simple stomach massage can help the situation.
Sometimes, your little one could be suffering from gastroenteritis, bladder infections, pneumonia, or strep throat. The infections normally come with other symptoms like vomiting, fever, decreased appetite, fast breathing, head, and belly pain, among others.
A quick trip to the emergency room will quickly reveal the cause of the pain. Within a day or two of taking proper medication, the pain will go away, and your little one will be on the road to recovery.
When You Should Worry
You should be very observant of the child and how he/she is behaving. There are conditions like appendicitis and intussusception that present as stomach pain.
Appendicitis starts with pain around the navel and localizing on the right lower belly. You will notice that your little one seems to be clutching that particular side to stop any movement. While we’re not saying you should panic and throw the child over your shoulders in a rush to the emergency room, be watchful.
If you realize that the situation seems to be getting worse, or other symptoms like fever and clamminess are starting to present, then, by all means, rush to the emergency room.
Intussusception is a very painful intermittent kind of pain. Check to see if your baby is pulling their legs up in the air, throwing up bile, or having a bloody bowel movement. Children between the ages of six months to 6 years are especially susceptible.
Watch out for the following symptoms in a child and call your Healthcare provider immediately you observe them.
- Bloody stool
- Severe diarrhea
- Recurrent vomiting
- severe pain that lasts more than one hour
- Inability to eat anything over a long period
- Fever that is greater than 39 degrees centigrade over a three-days.
- Frequent or painful urination
- lethargy or lack of responsiveness
Stomach Pain in Women
Women generally tend to suffer from pelvic pain, and the causes are many. These reasons include inflammation, indigestion, abnormal growth, blockage resulting in loss of blood supply, among others.
Some of the pain also comes with problems within the reproductive system; the most common being menstruation. Other times it could be due to genital tuberculosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and even ectopic pregnancy.
Some positive news, some of the conditions are easy to treat, for instance, constipation, and gas. Conditions like gastroenteritis only require sufficient hydration, through drinking water, to resolve.
When to Worry
If you have severe pain that starts suddenly, it could be indicative of a serious problem. If the pain does not seem to be abating over several hours, and you also have nausea, lack of appetite, dizziness, and black tarry stool, then you may need to start worrying.
You could be suffering from kidney stones that may be blocking the urine flow. If left untreated, you could damage your kidneys resulting in end-stage renal disease.
Another culprit is appendicitis, and for this, you need prompt treatment. If your appendix bursts, the pus could inflame the tissues of the abdomen, and it can be life-threatening.
Untreated cystitis can lead to infection of the kidneys. An untreated hernia is also quite dangerous because the organs can decay and die. The result would be severe septicaemia, which could be fatal.
If you press your tummy and there is a lump, you may want to check it out immediately because it could be cancerous.
Abdominal Pain during Menstruation
Abdominal pain during menstruation is quite common. However, some conditions may require urgent medical attention like fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, genital tuberculosis, among others.
In some cases, PMS may require surgical intervention if the symptoms are very severe. Polycystic ovarian syndrome also presents with irregular, painful periods.
Persistent pain in your pelvic area could indicate that you have fibroids and will, therefore, require medications or surgery. The pelvic inflammatory disease will affect the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus. If you do not seek medical attention, it may result in infertility and damaged kidneys.
Abdominal Pain during Pregnancy
During pregnancy, do not ignore any bleeding or severe abdominal pain. It could be indicative of an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Stomach Pain in Men
Stomach pain in men will occur due to various reasons, including appendicitis, gallbladder disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, among others. For men older than 50 years, other common causes include bowel obstruction, pancreatitis, and peptic ulcers, among others.
When to Worry
If you realize that your fever is above 39.4 degrees centigrade, or 38-degree, for those above 60 years consult your doctor immediately. Other things to look out for include when the whites of the eyes become yellow, pain, and feeling excessive weakness.
Men may also experience pain in the lower abdomen due to constipation, appendicitis, hernia, testicular torsion, ulcerative colitis, and kidney stones.
Other reasons for lower abdominal pain include food poisoning, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, cystitis, and diabetic ketoacidosis. Most of these conditions will present with bloody urine, and it may be a cause for concern.
If you have stomach cramps, dehydration, frequent and painful urination, vomiting, blood in the urine and stool, and pain that does not seem to be stopping, it may also be a cause for concern.
Treatment for the different symptoms could range from hydrating well, using heating pads, over-the-counter medication, or even surgery in some cases.
Long-term recurring pain could be an indication of illnesses such as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcers, urinary tract infections, among others. You are the best judge of your body, and if anything feels off, consult your doctor.
In the case of younger children, you need to be especially observant. Check for things like vomiting, high fever, lethargy, blood in the stool or urine, frequent need to urinate, incessant crying among others.
Again, as a parent, you will need to use your intuition in some cases, and apply some home remedies to bring relief. However, if the child does not seem to be responding well, it will not hurt to take a trip to the emergency room.
Women tend to suffer from many stomach pains due to different reasons. Severe PMS or infections of the reproductive organs can lead to lifelong problems or even fatality. If you are pregnant, and you observe any sporting, it could be an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Taking careful note of symptoms is also important for men because it could be indicative of very many issues. As long as the pain persists for up to 24 hours, and you feel tenderness or observe some swelling, make an appointment to see the doctor as soon as possible.