A stomachache can be painful and can derail your entire day. It can make you nauseous, cause diarrhea, and even give you a fever and body aches. In most cases, a stomachache will relieve itself in about 24 hours, with symptoms subsiding. Sometimes though, a stomachache is something more and could be cause for concern. Differentiating stomach pain, and accompanying symptoms, can help you determine if your body is trying to tell you something more serious is occurring internally.
No Emergency Care Required
Stomach pain can get the best of us but often can be traced to a common and curable issue. You may have picked up a virus or have simply eaten something that doesn’t agree with your system. If your stomach pain only lasts for a few hours, it is safe to say that no emergency care is required. Using a heating pad on your abdomen can help alleviate pain and cramping. Limiting yourself to clear liquids for a few hours can also help ease stomach discomfort. Further, over-the-counter antacids may be able to help soothe an aching stomach.
Existing Conditions Leading to Stomach Pain
If you have stomach pain and have recently experienced trauma or have an existing condition, you may have an emergency forming. Stomach pain following an injury or trauma can indicate something more serious is happening internally, and an emergency doctor should investigate your symptoms further. More so, if you are pregnant and experiencing severe stomach pain, seek medical attention. Other existing conditions that are a reason for an emergency visit with ongoing stomach pain include:
- Recent Trauma to Abdomen Area
- Bruising or Swelling in Abdomen Area
- Recent Gastric Bypass or Colonoscopy
- Pain Within a Week of Abdominal Surgery
Sometimes a stomachache is a standalone occurrence that can be traced back to a meal that didn’t sit right or a virus. However, sometimes a stomachache is a sign of a systemic disease or illness requiring medical attention. Accompanying symptoms are a great way to help you differentiate whether your stomachache is something more serious. Pay close attention to other symptoms you may be experiencing, especially if they form within hours of your stomachache. Some severe accompanying symptoms include:
- Fainting or Dizziness
- Vomiting or Coughing Up Blood
- Difficulty Breathing
- Blood in Diarrhea
- Pain in Back, Shoulder Blades, or Neck
- Hard Abdomen
Chronic, Ongoing Pain
If you have pain or discomfort that lasts for longer than three days, or if stomach pain and accompanying symptoms happen more than once per month, it may be a sign of something more serious. Ongoing pain and discomfort in the stomach area could be a systemic disease or condition. Symptoms that your stomach pain may be linked to a chronic illness can include:
- Regular Heartburn
- Recurring Diarrhea
- Regular Vomiting
- Change in Bowel Movements
- Nausea without Vomiting
- Unexplained Weight loss
How a Gastroenterologist Can Help
Visiting a gastroenterologist is the best way to help diagnose and treat your ongoing stomach pain and accompanying symptoms. A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in the digestive tract. This doctor is familiar with common symptoms, conditions, and ailments that may impact the stomach, intestines, and organs that help with digestion, such as the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.
Visiting a gastroenterologist for the first time can be intimidating but knowing what to expect will make the appointment easier—plan at least 45 minutes for your appointment. Your doctor will first learn about your symptoms and will ask questions surrounding your discomfort. Your doctor may also perform a physical evaluation, pressing on your abdomen and taking some baseline diagnostic tests. Depending on your symptoms and your doctor’s findings, you may require further testing and diagnostics. Standard tests can include a blood test, X-Ray, MRI, barium swallow, or an organ scan. After your doctor has obtained the necessary diagnostic information to make a diagnosis, he or she will work together with you to create a customized and achievable treatment plan to mitigate or cure your condition.