9 stomach pains you should never ignore
Don't just ignore a sudden pain in your stomach. Here's how to know when it could be something more than a cramp
Description: A burning sensation just below the breastbone, particularly after a large meal
Possible causes: Heartburn (reflux)
What to do: Take over-the-counter antacids and avoid large greasy meals. If pain persists for several weeks, see your doctor.
Description: Pain around and below your navel accompanied by gas
Possible causes: Constipation or flatulence
What to do: Take an over-the-counter laxative or anti-gas medication. If pain persists for more than two weeks, see your doctor.
Description: Sudden pain around your navel; may be accompanied by nausea, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, pressure to have a bowel movement or stiffening of the abdominal muscles
Possible causes: Appendicitis
What to do: Go to the hospital. Appendicitis must be treated quickly or the appendix will rupture and leak infected fluid into other parts of the abdomen. Stiffening of abdominal muscles is a sign that infection is starting to spread.
Description: Sudden pain in the right side of your abdomen that may radiate to other parts of your abdomen or back
Possible causes: Gallstones or gall bladder inflammation
What to do: If pain persists or worsens after eating greasy foods, see your doctor.
Description: Sudden pain below your navel that radiates to either side of your navel
Possible causes: A colon disorder, a urinary tract infection or pelvic inflammatory disease
What to do: If pain continues to worsen, call your doctor, who may order diagnostic tests or advise you to go to the emergency department.
Description: Sudden sharp pain near your lower ribs that radiates down your groin
Possible causes: Kidney stones or, if accompanied by fever, a kidney or bladder infection
What to do: Increase your water intake and call your doctor. Most kidney stones eventually pass on their own, although in rare cases surgery is necessary. If you also have a fever, call your doctor.
Description: Sudden pain and tenderness in your lower left abdomen may be accompanied by fever, nausea or vomiting
Possible causes: Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or diverticulitis
What to do: See your doctor, who may recommend a colonoscopy. Long-term treatment may be required.
Description: Sudden pain accompanied by bloody diarrhoea, blood in the stool or vomiting blood
Possible causes: A blockage in the bowel, a perforated appendix or bleeding from the bowel
What to do: These are symptoms of internal bleeding; go straight to the nearest hospital.
Description: Mild pain or discomfort that comes on slowly and continues or recurs for weeks or months, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea, constipation, bloating or flatulence
Possible causes: A chronic ailment such as lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, food intolerance, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or coeliac disease
What to do: See your doctor, who may refer you to a gastroenterologist for follow-up.
Description: Sudden abdominal pain in an older person especially one who smokes or has high blood pressure; may be accompanied by lightheadedness
Possible causes: Abdominal aortic aneurysm
What to do: The widening of the aorta can cause fatal bleeding. Go to the emergency department immediately.
Image credit: © iStockphoto/udok
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Adapted from Disease Free, Reader's Digest Canada