TriStar Health - November 20, 2017

Concerned about your stomach pain symptoms? Find a TriStar ER near you. If your symptoms are less severe, find a doctor to get further care.

Emergency Symptoms Are Good at Hiding

When it comes to stomach pain, it can be hard to know if the cause is an everyday indigestion issue, a pulled muscle, heartburn, or something more serious and life-threatening, such as appendicitis. Digestive problems can cause near-unbearable levels of pain and result in uncomfortable or unfamiliar symptoms. But how do you know when a symptom is a big deal or when it’s something that will pass?

When to worry about abdominal pain

It’s difficult to know when stomach pain should be cared for in the emergency room. Abdominal pain can be the result of a wide variety of conditions, making it particularly challenging to evaluate. Doctors recommend going to the ER in situations where the pain is severe or when symptoms are not ones you commonly experience. Other cues to watch for include changes in your stool or urine, and alarming symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing.

If you have a fever and abdominal pain, you should consider coming to the ER for evaluation.

When to worry about bleeding

There are two types of bleeding that could be a sign of digestive trouble.

Rectal bleeding

If you go the bathroom and notice you’re bleeding, you should immediately go the ER, right? Not so fast. Spotting blood in the toilet bowl is alarming but not always a reason to visit the ER. Finding blood in your stool, on the toilet paper or in the toilet could be a sign of hemorrhoids or anal fissures — neither of which are an emergency (although they can be quite uncomfortable).

There are, however, times when rectal bleeding is serious. Call 911 if it’s heavy or continuous, or accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, confusion, blurred vision, nausea or rapid breathing.

Blood in your vomit

There are many causes of vomiting. Blood in your vomit could point to a more serious condition, and you should call 911 or have someone drive you to the ER. The vomit may be red, look like coffee grounds, smell like stool or appear green. You should also go to the ER if vomiting blood is accompanied by a severe headache, blurry vision, confusion or a stiff neck.

Other causes of concern

Additional symptoms that may require a trip to the ER include:

Dehydration

See your doctor or go to the ER if you develop symptoms of dehydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Feeling lightheaded

Nausea

Nausea is a queasy feeling of needing to vomit. Sometimes it’s a sign of something serious. Head to the ER if you have accompanying severe symptoms, such as chest pain, fever or confusion.

Heartburn or a heart attack?

Another common digestive problem is heartburn, which feels like a painful burning sensation in your chest.

Usually, heartburn symptoms are worse when lying down and can cause a sour taste in your mouth. However, if you’re experiencing shortness of breath; sweating; dizziness; and pain in the jaw, neck or back, it could be a heart attack. These symptoms need immediate medical attention, but don’t drive yourself to the ER; call 911 for emergency help.

Are your digestive symptoms emergent? Find a TriStar ER near you.