From time to time, you may experience some form of abdominal pain. In most cases, pain in the abdomen is harmless and mild.
However, when stomach pain is accompanied by other symptoms or is severe, you may need to go to the ER. This may indicate a serious issue that needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately.
So, what could be causing your stomach pain?
Stomach pain can range from mild to severe and can occur for various reasons. Sometimes, it gradually develops and remains constant, waxes or wanes in intensity or becomes progressively worse, while other times, it begins suddenly.
In many cases, the cause of intestinal pain resolves on its own. For instance, heartburn, bowel gas, or constipation are possible causes of stomach pain that don’t necessarily need emergency care but may warrant treatment.
Serious cases of abdominal pain that should be diagnosed and treated in the ER include pancreatitis, kidney stones, endometriosis, cholecystitis, gallstones, colon or stomach cancer, bowel obstruction, or appendicitis.
In addition to this, abdominal pain may be caused by a potentially life-threatening process or condition which requires immediate diagnosis and treatment. These may include conditions like a perforated stomach or bowel, ischemic bowel, a ruptured appendix, a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
It can be hard to know the difference between harmless and life-threatening. That’s why it is vital to be evaluated by an ER physician. This is especially true if you experience any new accompanying symptoms with your stomach pain. A doctor can determine what may be causing the pain and prescribe proper treatment.
How do you know when to visit the ER?
Life-threatening conditions, such as those mentioned above usually cause highly noticeable signs and symptoms. If the abdominal pain is unbearable, or you have undergone a bowel resection, a colostomy, or a gastric bypass, you should seek urgent medical care.
If you are pregnant and have noticed symptoms that aren’t akin to pregnancy, a trip to the ER is also warranted.
Additionally, you should visit the emergency room if your pain started after experiencing severe abdominal trauma or a week after you’d undergone abdominal surgery. This also applies if you notice your abdomen rapidly expanding in size or if it appears bruised.
You should also get immediate help if you observe the following symptoms a few hours after mild stomach pain. These include changes in vision, fainting, dizziness, difficulty breathing, bloody diarrhea, persistent vomiting or vomiting blood, abdominal tenderness, and/or an extremely hard abdomen.
What happens at the ER?
When you arrive at the emergency room, your physician will take a detailed health history, conduct a thorough examination and run any tests they deem necessary to help find the cause of your abdominal pain.
Once the severity of your symptoms is noted and a cause is determined, they’ll administer appropriate treatment. This may include medications or additional therapies.
How do you know if it’s an emergency?
If your stomach pain is not associated with the symptoms mentioned above and isn’t persistent or severe, it may likely resolve on its own.
A good example of minor problems that cause abdominal pain includes trapped gas or constipation.
If you suffer from constipation, try to have a bowel movement and see if that helps. Try adding high-fiber cereal, beans, vegetables, and raw fruit to your diet to help with constipation in the long run.
If you have bowel gas, try a gas-relieving product or an OTC antacid.
If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid foods that are tough on your digestive system. These include spicy, fried, or high in fat foods or drinks containing caffeine or alcohol. You can also limit yourself to clear liquids for a couple of hours and use a heating pad or a hot water bottle to help soothe your pain.
However, if your symptoms don’t improve in one or two days, you should call your doctor for advice or visit the nearest ER.
When should you call your doctor?
If you aren’t experiencing any of the symptoms listed above but have observed a significant loss in appetite, nausea, discomfort, or pain when you eat or intestinal pain that hasn’t gotten better in one or two days, you should call your doctor.
Furthermore, if you notice blood in the stool, vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than usual, fever that lasts for 3 days or more, a fever that’s more than 100º, diarrhea that lasts over 5 days, blood in your urine, or burning with urination, contact your doctor and/or visit the emergency room for treatment.
You should also call your doctor if you are undergoing treatment for cancer and experience stomach pain.
If you aren’t sure what is causing your abdominal pain, you should visit an emergency room.