When to worry about stomach pain

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By DR. KAREN LATIMER

One of the most common complaints is stomach pain, or more accurately abdominal pain. There is a whole lot more going on in your midsection than just your stomach, which can make a diagnosis difficult. More often than not, pain in your abdomen is caused by something benign, and is nothing to worry about. But, sometimes it can be a hallmark of something more serious.

When should you worry enough to see your doctor? Keep in mind, it is much wiser to seek medical attention and find out it is nothing to worry about, than to wait and ignore a potentially serious ailment.

Here are 10 things you should know about stomach pain:
  1. Stomach pain is constant. Continuous pain is generally more concerning than intermittent, colicky type pain.
  2. If the pain is severe, waking you from sleep or making it impossible for you to continue with your day, call your doctor.
  3. If you notice any blood in the stool, you should consult a health care provider right away. Blood may not be bright red, but may look dark or black and have a tarry consistency. Called melena, this type of blood comes from farther up in the digestive tract and its appearance has changed during its course.
  4. If the pain is chronic and is accompanied by loss of appetite or weight loss make an appointment with your doctor.
  5. Pain that worsens quickly in its intensity should be evaluated, as it could be a sign of a surgical emergency.
  6. Fever with abdominal pain may be a sign of an infection.
  7. Vomiting, while common in a self-limited gastroenteritis is a cause for concern if it persists more than 12 hours, and you can't keep any food down. Any blood in vomit, or vomit that is green or has the consistency of coffee grounds should be treated as an emergency.
  8. Change in bowel habits that persist, including constipation and diarrhea can indicate a more serious problem.
  9. Pain worsens when you press on the area is a sign physicians look for when assessing stomach pain. If you press on the area and the pain increases, call your doctor.
  10. Dizziness, chest pain or blurred vision with the stomach pain should prompt a 911 call.
Almost everyone complains of stomach pain once in a while, and more often than not, we correctly attribute it to something we've eaten, a virus or anxiety. Every abdominal ache does not need evaluation, but if symptoms persist, are severe, or are accompanied by any of these warning signs, don't hesitate. Call your doctor.


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