Sooner or later everyone experiences abdominal discomfort. Common terms include stomachache, upset stomach, tummyache, indigestion, and bellyache. All are non-medical terms and so vague that it’s difficult for any doctor to determine what causes the pain in your gut.
Definitions of what constitutes a tummyache vary between individuals. To some, a stomachache is nausea, to others it may be the fullness and discomfort of gas. A bellyache might mean you feel too full after a large meal or that you are suffering acute abdominal pain.
Causes of abdominal pain (the term most medical providers prefer) are varied. Sometimes the cause of a stomachache is simple to figure out. If you ate too much at the pizza buffet or overdid it with chips and dips, then overindulgence is likely to be your problem. If onion rings always cause discomfort or pain and you just ate an entire basketful, then the rings – no matter how good they might have tasted – are probably the culprit. Most of us know what foods, if any, trigger an upset stomach and avoid these items. Or, if you just down half a pepperoni pizza with a banana split on the side, it’s not hard to guess why your stomach hurts!
But if your tummy rumblings seem more intense than usual or you can’t point your finger at any cause, it may be time to consult a health care provider. If any of the following conditions exist, you should call your family practicitioner or schedule an office visit:
-If the pain is minor but has lasted more than 3 days
-If the pain is acute and has lasted more than 3 hours
-If the pain comes and goes in patterns (such as cramping, aching, cramping, aching)
-If the pain is related to a particular meal (and you feel it’s more than simple indigestion)
-If your abdomen is so bloated that your clothing is too tight to be comfortable (such as you can’t fasten your jeans)
-If the pain is bad enough that you’ve called in sick, missed school, or stayed home from an event
-If you’ve suffered the same or similar pains on other recent occasions
You should seek immediate attention at the nearest ER if:
-Pain is severe and you have a temperature of more than 101
-Pain is severe and you feel like you may pass out
-You are vomiting blood or passing blood in your stool
-Pain accompanies both vomiting and diahrrea (especially if you are dehydrated)
-Pain is so severe that you have been unable to do anything (including sleep) for more than 4 hours.
-Pain is severe and you know (or think) you are pregnant
-Your abdominal muscles are hard and tight
If you suffer from stomach pain that doesn’t fit any of the above criteria and want to self-treat, avoid eating anything but clear liquids (broth, clear colas, water, anything you can see through) until you feel better.
Don’t eat again. Use over-the-counter remedies but don’t exceed the recommended dosages. Overuse of antacids that include magnesium can cause diarrhea. If your tummy troubles don’t improve within a few hours, consult a health professional.
Abdominal pain can be a symptom of several conditions including
appendicitis, diverticulititis, gastritis, ulcers, and even heart attack. These are just a few of the diseases that include abdominal pain as a symptom.
If it wasn’t the burritos or too much pie, a bellyache can be an indication of something serious so don’t leave your pain to chance. Know when to seek appropriate treatment.