- What’s Causing Your Stomach Pain?
- When to Get Medical Attention
- Abdominal Pain in the ER
- Stomach pain won’t go away, help!
- 3. Pain that’s made worse when you have a bowel movement
- Dr. Oz reveals which foods are good for heart disease, chronic pain
- 4. Pain that wakes you up at night
- 5. Pain that comes with a fever
- 6. Pain that improves when you eat
- 7. Cramping pain
- What happens when a child’s stomachache won’t go away?
- Young woman resting on couch holding stomach due to abdominal pain.
- When should my child see a doctor?
- How is the cause of abdominal pain diagnosed?
- How can I treat abdominal pain?
- Other questions you might have
- Resources and support
What’s Causing Your Stomach Pain?
When to Get Medical Attention
If you go through this list but still can’t figure out what’s causing your pain or if the steps you take at home don’t improve your symptoms, you should seek medical care. It can be very difficult to guess about its cause — and you probably shouldn’t try, says gastroenterologist Peter Moses, MD, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. This is particularly true if your pain is new and different (for you), intense, or accompanied by symptoms such as overall sweatiness, ongoing diarrhea or vomiting, dehydration, fainting, bloody stool or vomit, or shortness of breath.
“The gut has a pretty limited repertoire for telling you that it’s not happy,” says Dr. Moses. That means irritable bowel disease, surgically induced bowel obstruction, and viral gastroenteritis can all have the same crampy abdominal pain as a symptom, making it impossible for you to understand what your belly pain is signaling.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to relieve a new or intense pain at home. “We really don’t recommend that people take anything or do anything for symptoms that they are not familiar with,” Moses says.
Even if you call your doctor and try to describe your stomachache, chances are the doctor won’t diagnose you over the phone because belly pain is so non-specific. At night or on a weekend, the nearest emergency room might be your only option for treatment, though if your pain crops up during office hours for your doctor or if you can find an open urgent-care center late in the evening, those, too, are options.
Abdominal Pain in the ER
“What emergency physicians do is look for life threats, limb threats, or pregnancy-related issues” when patients come in with abdominal pain, says Mike Swindle, MD, who chairs the emergency department for the Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana-Champaign, Ill.
Dr. Swindle, who’s spent 30 years as a emergency room physician, acknowledges that diagnosing abdominal pain is challenging, saying that “we don’t figure out about half” of the belly pain cases that come into the ER. That’s why in addition to the ER docs, you may meet with a gastroenterologist, like Moses. Tests will probably be needed because stomach pain can indicate such a wide array of medical concerns, from the less severe gas to the more severe gastritis, ovarian cysts, or gallbladder disease, and from potentially fatal conditions such as food-borne illness to others that might demand prompt surgery, like a small bowel obstruction.
Here are just a few possible diagnoses that illustrate why medical care and testing are often a must:
- Pain in the upper abdomen could be pancreatitis.
- Tenderness on the lower right side of the abdomen could be appendicitis.
- Pain throughout the abdomen could be a perforated ulcer.
- Pain in the upper right abdomen or lower left side might indicate peritonitis.
- Pain and being 8 or 10 weeks late in your menstrual cycle could signal an ectopic pregnancy.
Ultimately, says Dr. Swindle, it’s up to each person to decide when to seek emergency care. As a guideline, he advises going to the ER for “pain that is unremitting and won’t go away, not even with Maalox or .” Finally, he says, always “come in if it’s bad enough that it scares you or worries you.”
Stomach pain won’t go away, help!
I think it depends on age
and personal circumstances as well regarding preparation for gastroscopy.
Certainly if once experienced
(was it allergic? or adverse reaction like sweating, flushing, nausea/vomiting, hiccups, abnormal vision, even seizures? or cardiorespiratory problems – usually very mild and more effecting people with pre-existing heart conditions, hence the assessment prior procedure)
reaction to a sedation,
that particular drug needs to be avoided and info about reaction stored/noted securely in writing at doc and with you
(we have now an online ‘cloud’ possibility launched to store such important med info, that can be accessed by any hospital and doc around Australia since one could be unconscious when found and have severe reactions to e.g. antibiotics or drugs);
But not everyone reacts, at all or the same.
There is a careful assessment prior procedure (e.g. one who is allergic to soy bean and egg might not be able to get propofol) to avoid unexpected reactions, monitoring during procedure and a careful after procedure care.
For some the trauma of being conscious can be bigger than the small risk of a short term side effect post procedure, if nothing pointed to a ‘risk’ during assessment.
My personl story:
My 14 yr old daughter did not get a ‘conscious sedation’
(which most people get, are conscious, but forget procedure),
but got a normal general anesthesia (propofol etc) under full blown anesthesiologist supervision via drip
and that was a blessing and without any complications afterwards.
For children/teenagers I would rather ask (or maybe done as routine for this age group anyway?) for a general anesthesia
(deep, rather then any of those conscious sedations) for scopes.
Good facilities automatically offer an anesthesiologist additionally to the procedure, (never would I trust anyone else administering a ‘deep sedation’.)
It (anesthesiologist additionally) came with a fee, but worth it and my daughter can’t remember anything, nothing,
she even got short ‘gas’ drift away since 4 trials were needed on all arms and hands to get the needle in for drip (very bad veins) and put her out of this misery of noticing the poking around unsuccessfully.
This scope general anesthetic is without muscle effect – no muscle paralyzation- doesn’t need intubation for breathing – at least my daughter didn’t where she was scoped-, the patient breathes by themselves during general anesthesia for scopes. (So it’s not quite the same as general anesthesia for long surgery that involves cutting through muscles and need to be paralised which effects breathing=need intubation=ventilator; there are many facets to general anesthesia, hence a whole own uni degree.)
Did you get midozolam or another benzodiazepin for conscious sedation, or reversal drugs like naloxone, that caused some reaction. Or reacted on propofol?
You -philippa- need to definitely know exaclty what drug caused a reaction (and note which reaction, since reactions are all not the same severness, not same scale of danger) and there are so many other drugs out there, some that might cross-react, some might not.
Also depending of nature (danger) of your post-reaction, you certainly do not want that to happen again or at least being very carefully monitored.
(we have a heart condition and still all went well)
If you can do scopes under ‘spray’ only, that’s great.
How does it feel?
I would be too chicken, I like to be unconscious when it is more than a local anesthetic for skin/mole/tooth and scar removal or some stiches.
I am pretty sure, my 14yr daughter would have not managed without trauma being conscious through first gastroscopy. If it was her own wish to stay conscious, maybe a different story.
Poster is only 15……
Good to have options though
and ask, ask, ask any question to doc and facility, they are the experts and should know an answer for each and every concern.
Best of luck!
3. Pain that’s made worse when you have a bowel movement
That could be a sign of colitis, pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, Hollander said.
Dr. Oz reveals which foods are good for heart disease, chronic pain
Sept. 26, 201704:56
4. Pain that wakes you up at night
“When we go to sleep, our intestines go to sleep,” Hanauer said. “Further, our brains usually turn off many pain signals while we sleep. So if the pain is bad enough to wake us up, that’s concerning. For example, severe, sudden pain that wakes us up in the middle of the night can mean the gall bladder is inflamed or a gall stone is passing.”
5. Pain that comes with a fever
This could be a sign of appendicitis or diverticulitis, Hanauer said.
6. Pain that improves when you eat
This could signal an ulcer, Hollander said. “Colitis and Crohn’s disease can get worse about an hour after eating,” he adds.
7. Cramping pain
This may suggest colitis, an obstruction or kidney stones, Hollander said. “Steady pain with a long duration makes you think about cancers or pancreatitis,” he adds.
The location of the pain can give you a clue about what body systems are involved, Hollander says. “In pancreatic diseases the pain often goes straight from the front to the back,” he added. “Pain located in the upper abdomen may be caused by an ulcer. Pain that is lower down could be related to colitis or an obstruction.”
Ultimately, we’d all be a lot better off if we talked with friends about our abdominal pain instead of suffering in silence.
What happens when a child’s stomachache won’t go away?
Harry Cynamon, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), talks about the elusive nature of irritable bowel syndrome in children, the all-important gut-brain connection — and what signs could point to more serious illness.
How does a parent know when a child’s stomach problems are serious?
In most cases, they aren’t serious. But obviously, if the symptoms aren’t going away, or are getting worse, parents need to take the child to the pediatrician to find out what’s going on. Certain issues are particular red flags, such as throwing up blood or passing blood, or losing weight, or not growing properly.
What kinds of patients do you see?
Typically, a pediatrician will refer a patient to me if a child isn’t responding to treatment or needs further evaluation. I see children of all ages — from infants to teenagers — with a wide variety of gastro-intestinal disorders or liver disease. One of the most common problems I treat is stomach pain, which can be caused by a lot of things, but is often due to irritable bowel syndrome.
What is irritable bowel syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition characterized by chronic abdominal pain, along with either constipation or diarrhea. It’s no fun, and it can be debilitating. But when we do tests, the GI tract is normal; there’s no inflammation or damage.
We don’t know what causes it, although it may be linked to complex interactions between the gut and brain, and stress and anxiety can play a role. In fact, kids sometimes feel that the adults around them don’t believe that they’re sick. But this is a real condition; it’s not imaginary.
How do you treat irritable bowel syndrome?
It’s not just, “Take this pill and it will cure you.” We often use a constellation of treatments — a special diet, exercise, stress-reduction techniques like yoga or acupuncture, or working with a school counselor and resolving any stressful school-related issues.
While there are medications for irritable bowel for adults, they often don’t work well in children. That said, I had one young boy who’d had severe stomach pain for months and had missed many weeks of school. It was a medication that finally did the trick.
How is irritable bowel syndrome different from inflammatory bowel disorder?
They can cause some similar symptoms, but they’re quite different. With irritable bowel syndrome, the GI tract is normal. But inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a serious autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the body, particularly the intestine, and causes inflammation. There are medications for it, but there’s no cure.
IBD is on the rise in kids. Why?
We don’t know. It’s actually on the rise in adults, too. It’s not just that we’re getting better at diagnosing it; the incidence is rising. Nationwide, it’s thought that about 100,000 kids under 18 have IBD. But it’s still much less common than irritable bowel syndrome.
Why are stress and anxiety so often linked to stomach problems? Because the brain and gut are connected. The gut contains millions of neurons; it basically has its own nervous system. Some scientists have even termed it a “second brain.” There’s a whole field now, called neurogastroenterology, that studies this complex interaction between the gut and brain.
What can parents do to promote a healthy GI tract in their children?
A healthy diet, high in fiber, with lots of fruits and vegetables, is important, along with plenty of fluids and regular exercise.
In addition, studies have shown that breastfeeding plays a big role in helping babies develop healthy gut flora, with lots of beneficial bacteria. We also know that aggressive use of antibiotics early in life puts a child at higher risk of developing IBD. So it’s important to not over-use antibiotics.
But a parent can do everything right, and a child still may develop digestive troubles. The gut is complicated, and solutions are not one-size-fits-all. We work with each family to come up with an individualized treatment plan that works best for their child.
If you’ve battled a gastrointestinal (GI) infection before, you know it’s not pleasant. But typically symptoms don’t last longer than a few days.
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However, in some cases, the effects linger for weeks or months — even after a person is no longer vomiting or having severe symptoms after a bad bout with a virus or food poisoning. Some patients just can’t seem to get back to a normal GI rhythm or bowel function.
This condition is known as post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Gastroenterologist Brian Kirsh, MD, says post-infectious IBS is fairly common — and you can take steps to diagnose and treat it.
What symptoms to watch for
“Post-infectious IBS is a constellation of symptoms that resemble irritable bowel syndrome,” Dr. Kirsh says.
Symptoms are usually less severe than the original infection and may include:
- Abdominal cramping.
- In some cases, constipation.
“Over time people do tend to get better,” he says. “For most of them, this is not going to be lifelong IBS.”
The symptoms of post-infectious IBS develop after an infectious GI bug such as viral gastroenteritis or a bacterial infection like E. coli or Salmonella or even C. difficile. Patients may suspect this condition if they had a documented GI infection that resolved, but their digestive function won’t go back to normal. “That should tip them off that they should seek out help.”
How long post-infectious IBS lasts
Symptoms last for weeks, months or sometimes even a year. Why it tends to linger is unclear, Dr. Kirsh says.
“I’m not sure anyone can answer that,” he says. “There are things we just don’t know about why certain things cause irritability to certain parts of the body.”
One theory suggests that the original GI infection results in some change in a person’s normal bacterial count in their small bowel. “That may have some lingering impact on symptoms.”
What you eat matters
Altering your diet can help relieve symptoms of post-infectious IBS. But keep in mind dietary remedies vary by patient.
For example, some people may find benefits from limiting wheat products. Others may need to stop eating dairy.
Research has shown that a low-FODMAP diet works well for most IBS symptoms. The diet recommends eliminating certain sugars that are difficult to digest. For example, a person on a low-FODMAP diet would avoid fruits such as apples, apricots, cherries and pears. Instead, they’d eat fruits like bananas, grapes and cantaloupe.
Overall, though, there’s no one-diet solution for everyone. So work with your doctor to find the best option for you.
Supplements and medications may help
If you have post-infectious IBS, your doctor may recommend probiotics. These supplements help repopulate the small intestine with healthy flora, Dr. Kirsh says.
A doctor might also prescribe antispasmodics or recommend antidiarrheal medications, many of which are available over the counter.
When testing is beneficial
Depending on the severity of the case, a doctor might order a blood test. This test can help make sure a person with post-infectious IBS isn’t anemic and doesn’t have an elevated white blood cell count. Patients may also get their electrolytes tested to make sure they’re not dehydrated.
Depending on your symptoms, some patients may undergo further testing for celiac disease or receive an endoscopy or colonoscopy, too.
Most people recover
Provided you don’t have a chronic condition such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, take this to heart: Post-infectious IBS shouldn’t last forever.
“Over time people do tend to get better,” Dr. Kirsh says. “For most of them, this is not going to be lifelong IBS.”
Young woman resting on couch holding stomach due to abdominal pain.
When should my child see a doctor?
Many children recover from abdominal pain quickly and don’t need to see a doctor.
Take your child to a doctor (GP) immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department if they:
- are in pain that goes on for longer than 24 hours or if you’re worried about them
- have pain that is severe or debilitating even though they have taken pain medicine
- are hard to wake and are unwell
- vomit for more than 24 hours, or they are unable to keep any fluids down, refusing to drink any fluids and their vomit is green
- have blood in their poo or vomit
- are having trouble doing a wee
- have pain and lumps in the groin
- were recently injured — for example, falling onto the handlebars of a bike
If your child is still a baby and they have fewer than 4 wet nappies per day, as well as their abdominal pain, you should take them to a doctor (GP) immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
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How is the cause of abdominal pain diagnosed?
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, you will need a physical examination and possibly some tests to help your doctor diagnose the cause of the pain. The examination or tests you have will depend on what sort of pain you are experiencing, how long you have had it, and your gender. If you are female, the physical examination may include a pelvic exam and pregnancy test. If you are a male, the examination may include checking your penis and scrotum.
The most common tests include:
- blood tests
- urine tests
- stool (poo) sample
- x-rays or CT scans
- ultrasound, in which a probe-like microphone is moved over your abdomen
- endoscopy or colonoscopy, in which a long tube is put either down your mouth or into your back passage (anus), while you are under anaesthetic, so a doctor can see what your stomach and bowel look like
How can I treat abdominal pain?
If you have abdominal pain, keeping warm and placing a heat pack or hot water bottle on your stomach may help.
If your abdominal pain does not require you to stop eating and drinking, stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of clear, non-alcoholic fluids. If you have a medical condition that restricts your fluid intake, check with your doctor about how much fluid you can have.
Eat small meals and – foods such as rice, dry toast or bananas. Avoid spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine until 48 hours after the pain has gone away.
Several medicines can help if you have non-acute abdominal pain, including:
- paracetamol to ease the pain (you should get medical advice before using other painkillers for abdominal pain)
- charcoal tablets or similar for wind pain
- medicines to ease spasms
- medicines to stop diarrhoea
Avoid aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen since these can irritate your stomach. A pharmacist can advise you about the most appropriate medicine for your abdominal pain.
In more serious cases, the treatment recommended will depend on the cause and severity of the abdominal pain, and how long you have had it. Treatment may include following a particular diet in the long term; getting more exercise; taking medicines; or having surgery.
Other questions you might have
When should you go to the hospital if you have abdominal pain?
If you have sudden, severe, debilitating pain in your abdomen, go to your nearest hospital emergency department or call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Why is my stomach tender when I push on it?
Your stomach could be tender for a number of reasons, including gastroenteritis, food poisoning, acid reflux, ulcers, heartburn, trapped wind, gallstones, appendicitis or heart pain.
What do upper and lower abdominal pain signify?
If the pain is coming from higher up in your stomach, it could be caused by acid reflux or an ulcer. You might also have heartburn and belching and the pain may either be made worse or relieved by food.
If you feel pain right across your stomach area or low down, it’s probably coming from your bowel. You may also have bloating and wind. If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause is probably gastroenteritis. If you are very ill — for example, with chills or a fever — you may have a more serious condition, such as food poisoning.
Resources and support
If you need to know more about abdominal pain, or to get advice on what to do next, call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse, 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Health Translations – Abdominal pain