Stomachaches are common and usually don’t call for medical treatment. For example, indigestion can cause stomach discomfort for a few hours until the food moves through your digestive tract, and gas and bloating triggered by certain foods can cause temporary cramping.
If over-the-counter medications and antacids don’t resolve the issue, it may be time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nirav Naik, our experienced gastrointestinal specialist at New Life Medical in Bakersfield, California. Here, he explains how to determine when your abdominal pain may indicate the need for medical care.
Potential causes of abdominal pain
Your abdomen is the midsection of your body, and it contains several organs. Abdominal pain could potentially involve any of these organs:
- Large intestine
- Small intestine
Important note: Heart attacks often feel like severe heartburn or abdominal pain. If the pain radiates from your chest to your arm and you feel lightheaded and dizzy with shortness of breath, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Signs that your abdominal pain requires medical care
Because your abdomen includes many organs, and medical conditions involving them have overlapping symptoms, it’s best not to self-diagnose. Dr. Naik has many years of experience diagnosing and treating abdominal pain, and he understands that the symptoms can be stressful and confusing.
That’s why he’s compiled this list of signs that indicate when you should see us:
- Dull abdominal pain that lasts more than a week
- Intense pain that persists for 24 hours
- Abdominal bloating that lasts more than two days
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain accompanied by a fever
- Pain and burning when you urinate
- Diarrhea that lasts more than five days
- Pain that worsens
- Frequently recurring pain
If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with Dr. Naik as soon as possible so he can perform a thorough exam and begin treatment.
Some abdominal pain shouldn’t wait for the next available appointment, however. Seek emergency care if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Severe and sudden pain
- Significant bowel bleeding
- Vomiting blood
- Yellow skin
- Constipation and vomiting together
- Abdominal pain and shortness of breath together
- Abdominal swelling
These issues may indicate life-threatening conditions.
Conditions that cause abdominal pain
Infection, disease, injury, and digestive issues can lead to abdominal pain. When Dr. Naik examines you, he asks questions about your pain, including the location, type, and duration. He also asks about how your pain behaves: Does it come and go, get worse over time, move from place to place, and does anything relieve the pain?
Your answers give him valuable information during the diagnostic process. There are too many conditions to list here, but below are some of the most common causes of abdominal pain.
Acid reflux or GERD
When the muscular ring at the bottom of your esophagus doesn’t function properly, it allows the acidic contents of your stomach to flow up into your esophagus, where it creates a burning sensation. Because this area is located in your chest cavity near your heart, it earned the nickname heartburn.
Acid reflux that regularly occurs several times a week is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Severe cases may require heartburn surgery.
Your gallbladder produces bile to aid digestion. If substances in the bile calcify and block the bile duct, you may experience abdominal pain.
Hernias form when weakened muscles in your abdomen allow your internal organs to push through the abdominal wall, causing a painful bulge. Constipation, heavy lifting, being overweight, and chronic coughing can lead to a hernia near your groin, diaphragm, belly button, or past surgical sites.
Hernias don’t resolve on their own, so surgery is often necessary. Dr. Naik specializes in all types of hernia surgery.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is one of several gastrointestinal conditions that can cause abdominal pain, and it affects your large intestine and causes bloating, gas, cramping, and abdominal pain. You may have IBS with diarrhea, constipation, or both.
Some cases of abdominal pain can be serious, and you shouldn’t ignore warning signs. If you’re concerned about abdominal pain, don’t hesitate to call us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Naik. He gets to the bottom of stomach discomfort so you can get back to living pain-free.