Abdominal pain is common, but it can feel scary. As many as 10% of visits to the emergency room are due to abdominal pain. Usually, abdominal pain resolves on its own when food poisoning, cramps, or the virus passes, but abdominal pain can signal something serious is going on and that you need care.
Here at GastroDoxs in the Greater Houston area, Dr. Bharat Pothuri sees a lot of patients with gastrointestinal concerns. Here’s when he says you should take notice of your abdominal pain and seek an evaluation.
Consider the nature of the pain
Be concerned about abdominal pain that comes on suddenly and intensely. Other things that should cause you pause include:
- Pain that persists for more than an hour or two
- Pain that radiates into other areas, like the chest
- Pain that increases when you apply pressure to the abdomen
- Pain that increases when you move or walk
- Pressure that makes your abdomen stiff and hard
You are a good judge of pain. If it feels different from the abdominal pain you’ve had before, it’s best to get it checked out.
If the pain comes in waves, it could be a sign of a blockage, like kidney stones or gallstones.
Pain that is located in just one part of the abdomen may indicate a specific problem with an organ. For example, abdominal pain in the upper right area may indicate an ulcer or gallstones.
Pain in the upper center may indicate a hernia, ulcer, or heartburn. Pancreatitis appears as pain in the upper left area while inflammatory bowel disease appears in the middle right. Lower abdominal pain may indicate a bladder infection, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome.
Pay attention to associated symptoms
When you have abdominal pain along with other specific symptoms, be concerned. These symptoms include:
- High fever and chills
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Severe bloating
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody or black stool
Some of these symptoms may indicate an infection or a problem in your digestive tract.
Head to an ER right away if you’re unable to pass stool and you’re vomiting.
Be aware if you’re in a high-risk group
Certain people are more at risk of developing a serious gastrointestinal condition or having a complication that presents with abdominal pain.
These higher-risk people include:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5 years old
- Adults older than 65
- Patients who recently had abdominal surgery
If you’re in a high-risk group or are concerned about acute symptoms, definitely reach out to the nearest urgent care clinic or emergency room. They may refer you to a qualified gastroenterologist like Dr. Pothuri.
What abdominal pain could mean
Abdominal pain is a symptom of a number of different conditions. It can occur due to gas, food poisoning, or a woman’s menstrual cycle. It could also indicate appendicitis, kidney stones, or inflammatory bowel disease. Because abdominal pain is a symptom of both minor and major health issues, monitor it closely and get help when you’re in doubt.
If you have abdominal pain, call our office in Cypress, Texas, or book an appointment online. We’ll offer a comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan so you start to feel better quickly.