Signs You Should See Your Doctor for Abdominal Pain

We all experience abdominal pain once in a while. Whether it’s from overeating, indigestion or a stomach virus, abdominal pain can be an uncomfortable, but often benign and self-limiting experience. There are times, however, when abdominal pain requires a visit to your doctor. 

Acute v. Chronic Abdominal Pain

The pattern and location of your abdominal pain can provide important clues to its cause. Acute abdominal pain comes on and usually resolves within a few hours or days and is usually accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Chronic abdominal pain on the other hand, may come and go and may be present for weeks, months or years.

Upper Abdominal Pain

Pain in the upper abdomen may be caused by conditions like: 
  • A stomach ulcer
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Gastritis 
Pain in the upper right side of your abdomen may be caused by gallbladder disease or liver inflammation, while pain in the upper left side may be caused by an enlarged spleen. 

Lower Abdominal Pain

Pain in your lower abdomen could be the result of appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, a urinary tract infection or issues with your reproductive organs if you’re female, for example. 

When to See a Doctor for Abdominal Pain

If your abdominal pain is concerning to you, you should visit your doctor. Below are commonly reported symptoms for which people seek medical care. If you have concerns about what you’re experiencing, you should seek medical advice.

Here are commonly reported abdominal pain symptoms:

  • You’re vomiting blood
  • You have tarry or bloody stools
  • Your pain extends beyond your abdomen to your chest, shoulder or jaw
  • You have shortness of breath
  • You’re pregnant, have cancer or have had a recent trauma
  • Your abdomen is significantly distended or is very tender
  • You’re unable to keep fluids down for 24 hours
  • You have a fever
  • Your pain is severe
  • Your skin is yellow
  • You’re unable to have a bowel movement

If you experience any of the following, you should see your doctor:

  • Mild pain that self-limits but recurs frequently
  • Pain that wakes you up at night
  • Pain and bloating that last more than 2 days
  • Burning or pain with urination
  • Dull pain that lasts for more than a week
  • Pain that causes poor appetite or weight loss