Symptoms as common as constipation or indigestion can trigger abdominal pain. And although a bellyache usually isn’t always something to get alarmed about, its exact location may be able to provide more information about how serious it could be. However, all symptoms should be diagnosed by your gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Simple symptoms ranging from prolonged gas to difficulty swallowing can signal early signs of more severe conditions. If your symptoms turn out to be nothing more than a reaction to a change in your diet or a simple infection, you’ll feel better for having checked with a professional who specializes in stomach disorders. Another valid reason to visit a gastroenterologist or digestive doctor is to schedule a colonoscopy or other regular cancer screening procedure. If you’re 45 or older (or even earlier, depending on risk factors) and have never undergone a colon cancer test, make your appointment now. It could save your life.

Where Does Your Abdominal Pain Occur?

First, let’s define the location of abdominal pain. Your abdomen area 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 have a heart attack. If this symptom is accompanied by 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 creating problems. 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. You should contact your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Severe Is Your Abdominal Pain?

Most abdominal pain isn’t severe. An upset stomach, for example, may cause some pain for a couple of hours before your body works it out. On the other hand, cramping pain 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 something you ingested. Diarrhea can be serious if it persists.

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

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. As our doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology, you should see a gastroenterologist or digestive system doctor 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 any prolonged period of time, even if it’s not severe, consult your digestive doctor. Pain should never linger! Most importantly, 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.

Don’t Ignore These Symptoms

Digestive system symptoms usually don’t appear as isolated events. Most often, several occur around the same time. It’s the combination — along with targeted testing — that helps your gastroenterologist make an accurate diagnosis. Some symptoms, when they occur with other symptoms, can signal a severe illness.
possible reasons abdominal pain
If you experience any of the conditions below, you should schedule an appointment with a reputable gastroenterologist like our doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology.

5 Gastrointestinal Conditions That May Be Causing Your Abdominal Pain

1.  Hemorrhoids rarely kill anyone, but they cause untold amounts of pain and embarrassment. Most cases resolve on their own or with over-the-counter medication. Some cases — especially internal hemorrhoids, where they form inside your rectum — can be very painful and difficult to treat. If you have internal hemorrhoids or a severe case of hemorrhoids, visit a New York City gastroenterologist.  Our doctors have treatments unavailable to a general practitioner.

2.  Almost everyone suffers from occasional short-term acid reflux. This indigestion usually doesn’t last longer than a day and may even disappear after a couple of hours. However, if the feeling persists, it could signify gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a treatable illness. Other symptoms may include unexplained weight loss, chest pain, sore throat, dry cough, wheezing, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

3.  You should see a doctor right away if you’re vomiting blood. This symptom is an emergency, and you may need to call 911. If you’re also experiencing some GERD symptoms (see #2 above) as well as black, tarry, or bloody stools, visit a gastroenterologist as these are alarming symptoms. It could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, a sometimes pre-cancerous condition, or one of several concerning conditions, including cancer.

4.  Chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, cramps, and blood in your stool are all serious enough symptoms on their own. But if you experience this combination, especially when accompanied by ulcers in your colon or mouth, it could signal Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is a severe illness that could require surgery.

5.  Jaundice occurs when your skin or eyes develop a yellowish tinge. This condition could signal a deadly disease such as hepatitis or pancreatic disease or many other concerning conditions, including cancer. But besides telltale jaundice, this disease can show symptoms that can mimic gastrointestinal disorders.

Light-colored stools or dark-colored urine can be a sign of hepatitis and other concerning conditions, including cancer. If you experience a loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, nausea, muscle and abdominal pain, and vomiting, you should see a doctor immediately.

Our doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology are  New York City Gastroenterologists that specialize in the treatment of abdominal pain. Contact us for more information.

Updated on Oct 16, 2022 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology