f you’re human and breathing, chances are you get a stomachache now and then. With so many culprits that can cause discomfort – from stress to indigestion to appendicitis – it can be confusing to tell whether your upset tummy is cause for concern. While it never hurts to call a doctor if you’re concerned, there are a few instances when you undoubtedly should.
If you’ve noticed blood in your urine or stool, your abdominal pain is likely caused by something more serious than your ill-advised lunch. Blood in the urine is a symptom of kidney stones, according to eMedicineHealth, and blood in the stool (which is usually dark and tarry rather than bright red) can indicate a number of serious infections and conditions.
If you can pinpoint exactly where the pain is located in your abdomen, it might be time to call the doctor. According to FamilyDoctor.org, pain in the upper middle or upper right sections of the abdomen can be caused by gallstones or a gallbladder infection. Pain near the groin could indicate kidney stones or a bladder infection, and pain in the lower right side of the abdomen may be a sign of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory diseases.
You have a fever
Stomachaches happen, but when your abdominal discomfort is accompanied by a fever – particularly a high fever – it’s a sign you have more than a case of indigestion. Temperature spikes indicate the presence of an infection, so you will definitely want to call your doctor if your thermometer is recording a high temperature.
It’s tender to the touch
A general stomachache is not usually accompanied by tenderness to the abdominal tissue and skin. If you notice pain or tenderness when you touch or apply pressure to a specific area of your abdomen, it’s time to talk to a doctor. According toMedlinePlus, abdominal tenderness may indicate appendicitis – an emergent medical issue – a hernia, or an abdominal abscess, among other serious conditions.
Any time you experience unbearable – or close-to-unbearable – pain, it’s essential you seek medical attention. Depending on your pain threshold, this may indicate a serious condition. As a general rule, Mayo Clinic suggests seeking medical attention if “the pain is so severe that you can’t sit still or need to curl into a ball to find relief, or if pain is accompanied by bloody stools, persistent nausea and vomiting, skin that appears yellow, severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen, or swelling of the abdomen.”
Gas and indigestion are generally easy to recognize because the pain is intermittent or colicky. However, if your abdominal pain is constant, it might indicate a problem – particularly if the pain is interfering with your daily routine.
If you’ve been complaining about abdominal pain for longer than you care to admit, it’s time to seek professional help. Even chronic indigestion and gas could indicate a treatable condition, like irritable bowel syndrome, or sometimes more serious conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, GERD, pancreatitis, ulcers or hernias.