When to Worry About Abdominal Pain
Find out when stomach pain is serious and when you can ride it out.
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When Should You Worry About Abdominal Pain?
Location is important, but the nature of the pain itself is even more so. Here are some of the things that make stomach pain more worrisome:
Severity: Pain that wakes you up out of your sleep or stops you in your tracks is always worth worrying about.
Persistence: Pain that’s continuous or lasting more than 10 minutes is more worrisome than intermittent, brief pain.
Tenderness: Doctors use the term tenderness to signify pain that results when the body part is pressed upon. From a patient’s perspective, tenderness is when movement makes the pain worse.
Loss of appetite: When a serious problem happens in the abdomen, the body shuts down digestion. Things stop moving through the digestive tract and the person feels nauseated and doesn’t want to eat. It’s rare for someone with appendicitis, for example, to want to eat anything.
Vomiting: The extreme of a shut-down digestive tract happens with vomiting, which is why vomiting can sometimes be cause for concern.
Blood in bowel movements: Painless bleeding is not as big of a concern, as it’s usually from hemorrhoids. But bleeding along with abdominal pain is a bigger concern.
[[AdMiddle]Melena: The word melena describes black, tarry bowel movements. That is a sign of bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract that leads from the stomach. The acid in the stomach changes the blood from red to black and tarry. If something is causing enough bleeding to cause melena, it is usually something bad, like a bleeding ulcer. Melena is serious, and people with it should go directly to the emergency room. That is true even if there is no pain.
Dizziness: If you are getting dizzy or light-headed with abdominal pain, it may mean your blood pressure is dropping. Get seen right away for this.
When Don’t You Need to Worry About Abdominal Pain?
The reassuring signs are the flip-side of the worrisome signs:
Pain isn’t worse with pressing or movement
Pain isn’t associated with a lack of appetite
Pain doesn’t interfere with regular activity
Furthermore, the passage of stool and gas shows that the digestive tract is working, which is also reassuring. That’s why surgeons ask people if they are passing gas after they perform abdominal surgery.
The Quick and Dirty Tip
The bottom line, of course, is that it’s better to get checked out by a doctor for nothing than to stay at home with something more serious.
Let me once again remind you that this podcast is for informational purposes only. My goal is to add to your medical knowledge and translate some of the weird medical stuff you hear, so when you do go to your doctor, your visits will be more fruitful. I don’t intend to replace your doctor; he or she is the one you should always consult about your own medical condition.
Catch you next time! Stay Healthy!