When Should You Go to the ER for Stomach Pain?
If you have sharp stomach pain accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should consider going to the ER:
- Vision changes
- Chest pain or pressure
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen abdomen/stomach area
- Cramping or very hard abdomen
- An abdomen that is tender to the touch
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Bloody diarrhea
- Constipation along with vomiting
- Vomiting multiple times
- Pain in neck, shoulder, or between shoulder blades
These could be signs of severe conditions that you’ll want to have diagnosed quickly, including but not limited to the following:
- Kidney failure
- Kidney stones
- Inverted or flipped intestines
- Bowel blockage
- Food poisoning
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastroesophageal acid reflux disease (GERD)
- And more
Challenges in Diagnosing Stomach Pain
Stomach pain is a widespread symptom and it is difficult to diagnose—not only could it be related to a host of underlying problems, but the pain can manifest itself in many forms. Although you know that you hurt and want the pain to stop, doctors and nurses may ask probing questions that require you to focus on what the pain feels like. You can expect your healthcare team to ask questions like these:
- Is this stomach pain, or severe abdominal pain—happening somewhere other than the stomach organ itself?
- Are you experiencing lower abdominal pain?
- Is your pain in your upper abdomen?
- Would you say this is a sharp pain, or more of a stomach spasm?
- Are you experiencing any intestinal pain?
- Is your stomach pain caused by cramping?
To the best of your ability, try to focus on where your stomach pain is occurring and how you would characterize or describe that pain—the more information your physician has, the sooner he or she can prescribe the right care.
Types of Care for Stomach Pain
Your emergency room doctor has a wide array of treatments he or she may provide, depending on what other symptoms you may have and how you may characterize the pain. The CDC reports,
Chest and abdominal pain are the most common reasons that persons aged 15 years and over visit the emergency department (ED). Because EDs provide both emergency and non-emergency care, visits for these symptoms may vary in their acuity. Advanced medical imaging is often ordered to assist in both diagnosing and ruling out serious illness associated with these symptoms.
Though the pain is happening in the same place, treatments vary widely. One person may receive a stool softener and/or laxative; another may be rushed to surgery to perform an appendectomy or other procedure.
Choosing to Visit the ER
Everyone experiences stomach pain several times each year. If you are experiencing severe stomach pain that is making you consider emergency care, then it may be bad enough for a doctor to see it immediately and help you avoid potentially permanent injury.