Post link 03 February 2016, 0:25
There are many different types of stomach pain, from jabbing aches in the side to diarrhoea and cramps - but what do they mean?

VIDEO. What do different stomach pains mean to your health?
Getty Woman suffering from a stomach ache

There are so many possible causes of stomach problems it’s difficult to know what might be behind those aches and pains.

But if your tummy is playing up, it’s something you shouldn’t ignore.

“The gut is an important part of the human body and is significantly linked to overall health and disease,” says Dr Reshma Rakshit, consultant gastroenterologist from the expert healthcare website

“However, many people put up with discomfort because they believe such pains are common.” Here Dr Rakshit helps identify the main complaints.

If the pain feels like…
..a sharp jab in the right side of the upper abdomen

It could be: gallstones

“Gallstones are lumps of solid matter that form in the gallbladder or the small bile tubes,” says Dr Rakshit, who practices at Springfield Hospital in Chelmsford. “These irritate the lining of the gallbladder and cause a sharp pain in the upper abdomen, symptoms worsened by a high-fat diet. Many people also feel the pain radiating around to their back or right shoulder.”

What to do: Other symptoms include dark coloured urine, pale coloured stools, jaundice or a fever. If you have any of these, see your GP for an ultrasound scan. You’ll need antibiotics and surgery to remove the gallbladder.

…uncomfortable bloating

It could be: excess gas

A very common symptom. “The gas in the digestive tract comes from swallowed air and happens when we eat too quickly, chew gum, have too many artificial sweeteners or eat large amounts of green leafy vegetables or beans,” says Dr Rakshit. “Fizzy drinks and beer are culprits too.”

What to do: Over-the-counter medicines such as peppermint oil capsules can help alleviate the problem. “However bloating can occasionally indicate serious health issues, such as tumours, so I’d always see a GP,” adds Dr Rakshit.

VIDEO. What do different stomach pains mean to your health?
…mild to severe upper stomach pain

It could be: a peptic ulcer

Peptic ulcers can be mistaken for gallstones, and vice versa, but they happen when the lining of the stomach is damaged. This is usually caused by taking strong painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, or from a bacteria in the stomach called helicobacter pylori.

“The pain can spread to the back and will usually occur before or after meals,” says Dr Rakshit. “If untreated they can cause you to vomit blood.”

What to do: If you are vomiting blood go straight to A&E, otherwise see your GP. You’ll need a gastroscopy and/or a stool test. Peptic ulcers are treated with medication.

…severe pain starting in the back

It could be: kidney infection

If you’re experiencing that dreaded burning sensation when you go to the toilet, then it’s highly likely you have a kidney infection.

“This is where bacterial infections have travelled up from the bladder to the kidneys,” says Dr Rakshit. “Sufferers may also experience fever, nausea and vomiting.”

What to do: “Kidney infection needs prompt treatment with antibiotics,” warns Dr Rakshit.

…a sharp pain in the lower-right side of the abdomen

It could be: appendicitis

“It’s caused when the entrance of the appendix becomes blocked, leading to infection,” says Dr Rakshit. “If it’s left untreated it can lead to a burst appendix or an abscess.”

What to do: Appendicitis is normally accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever. If you suspect you have it, go to A&E or see your GP immediately. You’ll need surgery to remove the appendix.

VIDEO. What do different stomach pains mean to your health?
…constant indigestion

It could be: acid reflux

Acid reflux, or heartburn, affects up to 20% of the population and is caused by a loose valve in the gullet (oesophagus). “It produces an acid taste in the mouth,” says Dr Rakshit. “Sufferers will normally experience a burning sensation in the chest too.”

What to do: You may need a gastroscopy – a camera fed down into the gut. Most sufferers will be advised to lose weight, stop smoking, eat smaller meals and keep their head elevated at bedtime. However, in some cases acid-suppressing medication may be necessary.

…abdominal pain and diarrhoea

It could be: gastroenteritis

Although it’s known as stomach flu, gastroenteritis actually has nothing to do with the flu and is in fact an infection of the digestive tract.

“It’s fairly common and is mostly caused by food poisoning or an infection, such as the norovirus,” says Dr Rakshit.

“It causes diarrhoea, stomach pain, vomiting and fever. The symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to two or three weeks.”

What to do: Stay hydrated and take paracetamol. Remember to wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating. If the symptoms persist longer than a few days, you feel dizzy or pass very little urine, see your GP in case you’re dehydrated.

…stomach ache accompanied by bloating

It could be: irritable bowel syndrome

IBS affects one in 10 people in the UK. The causes are unknown but it’s thought to be exacerbated by stress.

“There are three types of IBS, “ says Dr Rakshit. “The first causes tummy pain accompanied by diarrhoea and bloating, the second causes pain, bloating and constipation, and the third is a mix of both.”

What to do: “IBS is treated according to the type you have eg with antispasmodics, peppermint oil or laxatives. “If you think you have IBS see your GP,” says Dr Rakshit. “It’s a life-long diagnosis and needs a long-term management plan.”

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Topic edited 3 times, last edit by RouTe, 15 August 2016, 17:56  

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