How Is Abdominal Pain Diagnosed
The cause of abdominal pain is diagnosed based on your symptom history, a physical examination, and testing, if needed. Your doctor is likely to ask you questions about the characteristics of your pain, and whether you have any underlying physical or mental health conditions that could be contributing to your abdominal pain.
Questions from your doctor may address the following aspects of your abdominal pain:
- Where its located
- Whether its dull, stabbing, burning, or cramping
- Whether it comes and goes
- When you experience or notice it most
- Whether it radiates outward to other areas of your body
- How long youve had it
- Whether any activities or actions seem to make it worse or better
Your doctor may also ask about your overall health history, any recent injuries, and whether you might be pregnant.
- Blood, urine, or stool tests
- X-ray of the abdomen
- Computerized tomography scan of the abdomen
- Barium enema
- Endoscopic procedures
Acute Stomach Pain Treatment
Simple treatments like rest or pain medications like anti-inflammatories, anti-spasm and even antacid medications may provide pain relief.
If pain is long lasting , debilitating and has not been responding to treatments an assessement should be made by a pain management specialist, who can assess and treat most types of chronic pain.
Food Intolerance / Faulty Diet And Eating Habits
Abdominal pain is a common symptom with a wide range of causes. The abdominal pain can be a reflection of a disease or indigestion.
Overconsumption of certain foods and drinks can cause constant stomach pain for days.
The stomach pain can be a result of:
- Eating the wrong types of food.
- Eating Excess amounts.
- Bad eating habits (such as eating before bedtime or talking while eating.
Types of foods that commonly cause stomach pain that lasts for days include:
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Types Of Sharp Pains In The Stomach
There are several types of abdominal pain, depending on the duration of the pain:
- Acute pain occurs over a few hours or days
- Chronic pain can last weeks, months, or more and it may come and go
- Progressive pain gets worse over time
Some abdominal pain or discomfort is normal, but sharp, stabbing pain can be frightening. Most abdominal pain isnt a cause for worry, but it may be a sign of a more serious health concern.
The severity of the pain, the location within the abdomen, and other symptoms can help determine the potential cause behind your sharp stomach painsand whether or not you need to see a doctor.
How Is The Cause Of Abdominal Pain Diagnosed
Abdominal pain is one of the most common symptoms seen by GPs .
Information about your symptoms and the location of the abdominal pain can help a doctor diagnose the cause of your pain. They will want to know how long you have had the pain and may want to do a physical examination. If you are female, this may include a pelvic examination. If you are male, it may include checking your penis and scrotum.
They may suggest you have some blood tests or other diagnostic procedures done, especially if you have had the symptoms for some time.
Tests and procedures that may help in diagnosing the cause of abdominal pain include:
Other procedures that may be suggested, depending on your gender, include:
- pregnancy test and/or pelvic ultrasound
- ultrasound of the scrotum
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Is It Really A Food Allergy
A differential diagnosis is the process of telling the difference between a food allergy, a food intolerance, and other illnesses. When you go to the doctor’s office and say, “I think I have a food allergy,” they have to consider a list of other things that could cause similar symptoms and be confused with a food allergy. These include:
- Other diseases
- Psychological triggers
Foods can get contaminated with bacteria and toxins. Tainted meat sometimes mimics a food allergy when it’s really a type of food poisoning.
Histamine can reach high levels in cheese, some wines, and in certain kinds of fish, especially tuna and mackerel, if it hasn’t been refrigerated properly. When you eat foods with a lot of histamine, you could have a reaction that looks like an allergic reaction. It’s called histamine toxicity.
Sulfites are made naturally during the fermentation of wine, and they’re added to other foods to enhance crispness or prevent mold growth. High concentrations of sulfites can pose problems for people with severe asthma. They give off a gas called sulfur dioxide, which the person breathes in while they’re eating the food. This irritates their lungs and can trigger an asthma attack. That’s why the FDA banned sulfites as spray-on preservatives for fresh fruits and vegetables. But sulfites are still used in some foods.
Yellow dye number 5 can cause hives, although that’s rare.
How Food Allergies Work
Food allergies involve two parts of your immune system. One is immunoglobulin E , a type of protein called an antibody that moves through the blood. The other is mast cells, which you have in all body tissues but especially in places like your nose, throat, lungs, skin, and digestive tract.
The first time you eat a food you’re allergic to, certain cells make a lot of IgE for the part of the food that triggers your allergy, called an allergen. The IgE gets released and attaches to the surface of mast cells. You won’t have a reaction yet, but now you’re set up for one.
The next time you eat that food, the allergen interacts with that IgE and triggers the mast cells to release chemicals such as histamine. Depending on the tissue they’re in, these chemicals will cause various symptoms. And since some food allergens aren’t broken down by the heat of cooking or by stomach acids or enzymes that digest food, they can cross into your bloodstream. From there, they can travel and cause allergic reactions throughout your body.
The digestion process affects the timing and the location. You may feel itching in your mouth. Then you may have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or belly pain. Food allergens in your blood can cause a drop in blood pressure. As they reach your skin, they can trigger hives or eczema. In the lungs, they may cause wheezing. All of this takes place within a few minutes to an hour.
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Gut Feeling: How To Know If Stomach Pain Is Serious
Abdominal pain is the single leading reason for emergency room visits in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accounting for more than 12 million of the nearly 139 million annual ER visits. Most people call it stomach pain, but it’s not always a stomach problem. Your abdomen holds many other organs, too, including your intestines , pancreas, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen and appendix.
So its not surprising that, just as with chest pain or a headache, it can be difficult to tell whats really going on in there when your tummy’s not feeling well. Add in other vague symptoms such as nausea and vomiting and you could have the stomach flu, food poisoning, gallstones, kidney stones or any number of other conditions.
Here are some ways to tell what the source of your pain is and when you should seek medical care.
How Can I Feel Better
Most bellyaches don’t have a serious cause. They can happen for many different reasons, but most are easy to treat.
If stress or anxiety seem to be behind the pain, the doctor may recommend that you talk to a counselor or therapist. They help people figure out what’s behind their stress and give advice on how to fix problems or handle them better.
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Which Food Allergies Are Most Common
In adults, they include:
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts
- Shellfish, including shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab
For children, the food allergens that most often cause problems are:
Adults usually don’t lose their allergies, but children do sometimes. Kids are more likely to outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, and soy than to peanuts, fish, and shrimp.
The foods that you’ll react to are often those that you eat regularly. In Japan, for example, you’ll find rice allergy. In Scandinavia, codfish allergy is common.
What Are Some Of The Home Remedies To Cure Constant Stomach Pain
Home remedies can be beneficial in case of indigestion and mild bowel problems. In case of chronic and acute stomach pain there can be a presence of a serious underlying cause. Medical assistance should be sought in such cases. Few general home remedies to cure constant stomach pain involve-
Hot Compress: In case of abdominal cramps due to menstruation, hot compress with a heating pad or hot water bag may help ease out the pain.
Light Boiled Food: Eating light boiled food in case of diarrhea may help soothe the digestive system.
Ginger Tea: Drinking ginger tea may help improve digestion and reduce stomach pain as it is a good source of antioxidant.
Lemon and Hot Water: A combination of lemon and hot water helps reduce bloating as it restores the pH level of the body and removes gas. One may also use apple cider vinegar.
Fennel Seeds & Chamomile: Fennel seeds and chamomile are known for their antimicrobial muscular relaxant properties giving instant results in acute stomach pain occurring due to indigestion. Fennel seeds are beneficial to soothe menstrual cramps.
Home remedies for constant stomach pain also involve using varied spices like ginger, fennel seeds or even peppermint to help combat indigestion problems. Lemon and apple cider vinegar are good detoxifying agents of the digestive system. Above all, healthy diet and a proper lifestyle help keep the body clean, boosting metabolism and proper digestion.
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How Can I Manage My Symptoms
- Apply heat on your abdomen for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
- Make changes to the food you eat, if needed. Do not eat foods that cause abdominal pain or other symptoms. Eat small meals more often. The following changes may also help:
- Eat more high-fiber foods if you are constipated. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, and legumes.
- Do not eat foods that cause gas if you have bloating. Examples include broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Do not drink soda or carbonated drinks, because these may also cause gas.
- Do not eat foods or drinks that contain sorbitol or fructose if you have diarrhea and bloating. Some examples are fruit juices, candy, jelly, and sugar-free gum.
- Do not eat high-fat foods. Examples include fried foods, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and desserts.
- Limit or do not have caffeine. Caffeine may make symptoms, such as heart burn or nausea, worse.
- Drink more liquids to prevent dehydration from diarrhea or vomiting. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
How Is The Cause Of Chronic Abdominal Pain Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will examine you. He or she may ask about your family history of abdominal pain. Tell your provider about your symptoms and the medicines you currently take. Tell him or her if anything makes your symptoms better or worse. Based on what your provider finds after the exam, and your symptoms, you may need any of the following:
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Giardia Hiv And Other Infections
Infections are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.
They can cause both short-term and long-term gastrointestinal symptoms, and include:
- Giardia: This waterborne parasite found in pools, hot tubs and streams is known to cause chronic stomach pain and diarrhea. Symptoms can take one to three weeks to show up and may linger for six weeks or more. For some, the issue can become long-term and trigger both irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies .
- HIV: This virus can also cause chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain due to an increased rate of infection and cancer .
- Clostridium difficile: This infection often emerges after a course of antibiotics, which kills some of the guts good bacteria. This can make way for bad bacteria like Clostridium difficile to colonize the digestive system and cause chronic diarrhea .
- H. pylori: this is a common and contagious bacteria which can cause gastritis and present with symptoms including stomach pain in about 20% of those infected.
Summary: Bacterial, viral and parasitic infections from Clostridium difficile, HIV, giardia and H. pylori can all result in chronic stomach pain. In some cases, long-term issues can occur.
When To See A Doctor About Abdominal Pain
Go straight to your doctor or the emergency department of the nearest hospital if you have any of:
- severe pain
- pain lasting for several hours
- pain and/or vaginal bleeding if you are pregnant
- pain in your scrotum if you are a male
- pain and vomiting or shortness of breath
- pain and vomiting blood
- blood in your bowel motions or urine
- pain that spreads to your chest, neck or shoulder
- fever and sweats
- unable to move your bowels or pass gas
- any other concerns.
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Common Types Of Food Intolerance And Allergy:
- Lactose intolerance: Present in milk, ice cream, mustard, some types of cheese.
- Fructose intolerance: Present in many fruits and honey.
- FODMAPs intolerance: It affects people with IBS. FODMAPs refer to Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. FODMAPs are a group of short-chain carbohydrates that cause gas and digestive disturbances. They are present in a wide variety of foods, vegetables, fruits, and artificial sweeteners. Learn more.
- Caffeine intolerance: Caffeine in coffee, teas, chocolates is one of the most common causes of constant diarrhea. Caffeine is usually abused in large amounts which raises the risk of diarrhea.
- Alochol intolerance: Too much drinking causes diarrhea and some of them are high in FODMAPs and can trigger IBS symptoms.
- Gluten intolerance:
- Some vegetables and fruits.
What Causes Sudden And Severe Abdominal Pain
Sudden and severe abdominal pain should never be ignored. Steadily worsening abdominal pain may also be a sign of a serious condition.
If you have these symptoms, go immediately to your nearest hospital emergency department or call triple zero and ask for an ambulance.
Some of the causes of serious abdominal pain include:
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What Are The General Causes Of Constant Stomach Pain In Children
In case of constant stomach pain in children it is advisable to check with the doctor to know the underlying cause. Children go through a variety of internal changes due to the developmental process, and self medication may not be much of a good idea. The possible and general causes of constant stomach pain in children may include-
Indigestion: Infants and toddlers may suffer from indigestion frequently of the food habits are not healthy. This can be symptomatic in form of constant stomach pain.
Constipation: Children are seen to be easy prey of constipation. If bowel movements are not clear due to hardening of faces, children may complain of constant stomach pain.
Gastritis: Prolonged period spent without food can lead to gastritis in children. Infants and kids cannot really understand when they are hungry, and may complain of stomach pain when they experience hunger pangs.
Food Allergies: Sometimes children may be allergic to some kind of food which may lead to constant stomach pain while consuming the same.
What Causes Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be caused by many different factors. Often conditions that accompany normal aging may affect bones and joints in ways that cause chronic pain. Other common causes are nerve damage and injuries that fail to heal properly.
Some kinds of chronic pain have numerous causes. Back pain, for example, may be caused by a single factor, or any combination of these factors:
- Years of poor posture
- Ordinary aging of the spine
Disease can also be the underlying cause of chronic pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia are well-known culprits, but persistent pain may also be due to such ailments as cancer, multiple sclerosis, stomach ulcers, AIDS, and gallbladder disease.
In many cases, however, the source of chronic pain can be a very complex and even mysterious issue to untangle. Although it may begin with an injury or illness, ongoing pain can develop a psychological dimension after the physical problem has healed. This fact alone makes pinning down a single course of treatment tricky, and it is why health care providers often find they have to try a number of different types of curative steps.
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How Is Abdominal Pain Treated
Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. Options include:
- Medications for inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux disease or ulcers.
- Antibiotics for infection.
- Changes in personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages.
- Local or spinal injections of numbing agents or corticosteroids by pain management physicians.
In more severe cases like appendicitis and hernia, surgery is necessary.
Taking Care Of Yourself At Home
Most abdominal pain goes away without special treatment. Be guided by your doctor, but there are some things you can do to help ease the pain, including:
- Place a hot water bottle or heated wheat bag on your abdomen.
- Soak in a warm bath. Take care not to scald yourself.
- Drink plenty of clear fluids such as water.
- Reduce your intake of coffee, tea and alcohol as these can make the pain worse.
- When you are allowed to eat again, start with clear liquids, then progress to bland foods such as crackers, rice, bananas or toast. Your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Try over-the-counter antacids, to help reduce some types of pain.
- Take mild painkillers such as paracetamol. Please check the packet for the right dose. Avoid aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs unless advised to take them by a doctor. These drugs can make some types of abdominal pain worse.
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