Abdominal Pain & When to Consult a Doctor

Symptoms as benign as constipation or indigestion can trigger abdominal pain. And although a bellyache usually isn’t something to get alarmed about, its exact location may be. Where your pain occurs is even more important than its intensity because the location may indicate a more serious complication.

So how can you know whether it’s serious or not? Ask yourself the following questions.

Where Does Your Abdominal Pain Occur?

First, let’s define the location of abdominal pain. The area of your abdomen covers a lot of space and many organs, from your appendix and gallbladder to your heart and large intestine.

If your pain radiates down from your chest, where it feels like heartburn, it may be a sign that you are having a heart attack. If this symptom is accompanied by a shortness of breath and lightheadedness, seek medical attention immediately. Time counts.

If your abdominal pain is localized to one spot, especially if it’s on one side or another, it may be a sign that one of your organs is the cause. Contact or make an appointment with your doctor right away. Pinpointing the exact location can help your physician diagnose your problem if it’s appendicitis or a gallbladder issue.

If your pain isn’t localized or severe, you may be suffering from indigestion or gas. This condition should pass within an hour. If it gets worse, contact your doctor or a New York City gastroenterologist. It might be a constricted or blocked intestine. Even a stomach virus isn’t serious if treated properly.

How Severe Is Your Abdominal Pain?

Most abdominal pain isn’t severe. An upset stomach, for example, may cause some pain for a couple hours before your body works it out. Cramping pain, on the other hand, is usually the result of bloating and gas, which can be food-related. If you suffer diarrhea with your pain, it may be just a sign that your body is ridding itself of toxins you digested. Diarrhea isn’t serious unless it persists.

If your pain is severe and comes in waves — starting and stopping repeatedly — it may be a sign of kidney stones. Contact your doctor. Although usually not life-threatening, kidney stones can result in debilitating pain.

How Long Have You Had Your Abdominal Pain?

Indigestion, gas or bloating usually doesn’t linger. It strikes while your digestive system is dealing with the offending food items and then it passes after that food is digested or passed through to your large intestine. Any symptom that lasts more than a day, whether it’s abdominal pain or a headache, is often a sign of something more serious.

You should see a gastroenterologist or digestive system doctor, like Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, if you are taking an antacid daily to alleviate your heartburn. Relying on antacids is not a proper solution and can cause other health conditions.

If you are experiencing abdominal pain for longer than a day, even if it’s not severe, consult your digestive doctor. It may be nothing, but you should have it checked. Pain should never linger.

This article is only meant as a guide, not as a self-diagnostic tool. When in doubt, your rule of thumb should be to consult a digestive system doctor or gastroenterologist.

Dr. Shawn Khodadadian is a New York City Gastroenterologist that specializes in the treatment of abdominal pain. Contact us for more information.

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