Pinpoint the cause of that aching tummy. By Dawn Chen
Could your stomach pain be a sign of appendicitis or kidney stones? Photo: Elizabeth Crego / www.123rf.com
There are a whole host of abdominal problems that can make you double over in agony. While some are more serious than others, it’s not always easy to pinpoint what’s wrong. When in doubt, or if the pain lasts for longer than an hour, check with a doctor and watch out for accompanying symptoms. According to Dr Gwee Kok Ann, director and consultant gastroenterologist at Stomach Liver & Bowel Clinic, alarm symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and passing of blood in stools. In such cases, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.
Your stomach pain could be due to… Appendicitis
Other symptoms: Fever, abdominal swelling and inability to pass gas.
Why it happens: Gastroenteritis is sometimes mistaken for appendicitis, especially during self-diagnosis, but a red flag for appendicitis is unrelenting pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. The case of inflammation of the appendix is still unknown. Some experts suspect that this occurs when bits of undigested food or stool blocks the appendix, but that theory has yet to be proven.
How to treat appendicitis: Surgery is needed to remove the inflamed appendix. Left untreated, it will eventually burst and can be fatal.
Your stomach pain could be due to… Kidney stones
Other symptoms: Severe pain in the back and side that shifts to the lower abdomen and groin area, blood in your urine and frequent urination.
Why it happens: Kidneys help remove extra water and waste from your blood. When you drink too little water, the kidneys don’t get a good flushing and urine becomes concentrated, allowing minerals to crystallise and form hard deposits. People with high body weight and those who are not physically active are more prone to developing kidney stones.
How to treat kidney stones: Small kidney stones can be naturally passed out by drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day. For bigger stones, surgery is usually required.
Your stomach pain could be due to… Gastroenteritis (or stomach flu)
Other symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhoea and fever.
Why it happens: Consuming food or drinks that have been contaminated by bacteria or viruses can cause this intestinal infection. To avoid it, eat only freshly and fully cooked food while it’s still hot.
How to treat gastroenteritis: Antibiotics will be prescribed if the infection is caused by bacteria or parasites. There is no treatment for viral gastroenteritis, but your body’s immune system will fight it naturally. The doctor may also give medication for symptomatic relief. In mild cases of stomach flu, probiotics may help too.
Your stomach pain could be due to… Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Other symptoms: Bloating, flatulence and irregular bowel movement such as constipation or diarrhoea.
Why it happens:The exact cause of IBS is still not known, but stress, certain foods and hormonal imbalances are common triggers for those cramps in the lower abdomen. Frequently mistaken for indigestion, IBS affects the large intestine and tends to be common among young women.
How to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome: If you already have IBS, don’t load up on veggies in the hope that fibre will help to ease bowel movement, as it could worsen symptoms. The pain usually goes away after passing wind or a visit to the loo. Medication may also be given to relieve symptoms.
Your stomach pain could be due to… Ovarian cancer
Other symptoms: Abdominal swelling, bloating, flatulence and change in bowel habits. Symptoms usually only develop when cancer is advanced.
Why it happens: Ovarian cancer occurs when malignant tumours grow on different parts of the ovaries. Symptoms like stomach pain show when the cancer spreads to nearby organs and causes problems such as bowel movement obstruction. Women who are over 40 and have never breastfed as well as those with infertility issues or a family history of ovarian cancer tend to be at the highest risk. It is the fifth most common cancer among women in Singapore.
How to treat ovarian cancer: Depending on the stage of cancer, surgery and/or chemotherapy is usually needed.