Abdominal Pain (cont.)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Abdominal pain facts
- What is abdominal pain?
- What causes abdominal pain?
- How is the cause of abdominal pain diagnosed?
- Characteristics, symptoms, and signs of the abdominal pain
- Associated signs and symptoms of abdominal pain
- Physical examination
- Exams and tests
- Special problem in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) of diagnosing the cause of abdominal pain
- Why can diagnosis of the cause of abdominal pain be difficult?
- How can I help my doctor to determine the cause of my abdominal pain?
- Pictures of Abdominal Pain - Slideshow
- Pictures of What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain - Slideshow
- Pictures of Appendicitis & Appendectomy - Slideshow
- Find a local Doctor in your town
How can I help my doctor to determine the cause of my abdominal pain?
Before the visit, prepare written lists of:
- Medications you are currently taking, including herbs, vitamins, minerals, and food supplements.
- Your allergies to medications, food, or pollen
- The medications that you have tried for your abdominal pain.
- Important medical illnesses that you have such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.
- Previous surgeries such as appendectomy, hernia repairs, gallbladder removal, hysterectomy, etc.
- Previous procedures such as colonoscopy, laparoscopy, CT scan, ultrasound, upper or lower barium X-rays, etc.
- Previous hospitalizations
- Ill family members, particularly those who have symptoms similar to yours.
- Family members with gastrointestinal diseases (involving the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder).
- Be candid with your doctor about your prior and current alcohol consumption and smoking habits, any history of chemical dependence.
Be prepared to tell your doctor:
- When the pain first started
- If there were previous episodes of similar pain.
- How frequently episodes of pain occur
- If each episode of pain starts gradually or suddenly
- The severity of the pain
- What causes the pain and what makes the pain worse
- What relieves the pain
- The characteristics of the pain. Is the pain sharp or dull, burning or pressure like? Is the pain jabbing and fleeting, steady and unrelenting or crampy (coming and going)?
- If the pain is associated with fever, chills, sweats, diarrhea, weight loss, constipation, rectal bleeding, loss of appetite, nausea or loss of energy?
After the visit to the doctor, do not expect an instant cure or immediate diagnosis, and remember:
- Multiple office visits and tests (blood tests, radiographic studies, or endoscopic procedures) are often necessary to establish the diagnosis and/or to exclude serious illnesses.
- Doctors may start you on a medication before a firm diagnosis is made. Your response (or lack of response) to that medication sometimes may provide your doctor with valuable clues as to the cause of your abdominal pain. Therefore, it is important for you to take the medication that is prescribed.
- Notify your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse, if medications are not working, or if you think you are having side effects from the medication.
- Call your doctor for test results. Never assume that "the test must be fine since my doctor never called."
- Do not self medicate (including herbs, supplements) without discussing with your doctor.
- Even the best physician never bats 1000. Do not hesitate to openly discuss with your doctor referrals for second or third opinions if the diagnosis cannot be firmly established and the pain persists.
- Self education is important, but make sure what you read came from credible sources.
Additional resources from WebMD Boots UK on Abdominal Pain
REFERENCE: Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.
Previous contributing medical author: Dennis Lee, MD
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