4 Signs Your Persistent Abdominal Pain May Be an Emergency

Nov 15, 2023
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4 Signs Your Persistent Abdominal Pain May Be an Emergency

About 5-10% of all emergency room complaints involve abdominal or flank pain. Abdominal pain is often due to minor causes, like constipation, lactose intolerance, or a stomach virus. But if you have severe abdominal pain, is it time to head to the ER?

The experts at St. Michael’s Elite Hospital in Sugar Land, Texas, recommend visiting the emergency room for abdominal pain that is out of the ordinary, persistent, or accompanied by certain symptoms. 

Here are four instances when you should suspect your abdominal pain is an emergency and warrants prompt medical attention. 

1. Severe and sudden onset of pain

A concerning sign of an abdominal emergency is the sudden and severe onset of pain. If you experience intense, sharp, or stabbing pain in your abdomen, it could be a sign of a serious condition, such as appendicitis, a ruptured organ, or an intestinal blockage. This type of pain requires immediate medical evaluation, as it may indicate a life-threatening situation.

2. Pain accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea

When abdominal pain is accompanied by persistent vomiting or diarrhea, it can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This combination of symptoms could indicate conditions like gastroenteritis, food poisoning, or an obstruction in your digestive tract. 

Dehydration is serious, especially in cases of persistent vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, it's essential to seek medical attention if these symptoms persist. 

Be watchful of babies or toddlers experiencing vomiting or diarrhea because dehydration can cause them to weaken or become unresponsive quickly. 

3. Abdominal pain with blood in vomit or stool

Blood in your vomit or stool, along with abdominal pain, can be a sign of a severe condition. Bloody or tarry stools usually indicate gastrointestinal bleeding, which may be caused by ulcers, diverticulitis, or colorectal cancer. 

Vomiting blood can also be a sign of a gastrointestinal emergency. Contact the team at St. Michael’s Elite Hospital immediately if you notice red or dark (even black) streaks. Older blood is darker in color.

4. Pain associated with high fever and rigidity

Abdominal pain accompanied by a high fever and abdominal rigidity (stiffness of the muscles in the abdominal area) can be a sign of peritonitis. Peritonitis is an inflammation of the abdominal cavity's lining and is often caused by a bacterial infection. This condition can be life-threatening if left untreated and requires immediate medical intervention.

In most cases, abdominal pain is a sign of a minor ailment. But don’t just assume it’s “nothing,” especially when it presents with any of the four symptoms discussed above. Prompt evaluation and treatment can significantly affect the outcome of abdominal emergencies.

If you need an evaluation, contact St. Michael’s Elite Hospital or use this website to make your appointment. Our surgical hospital is equipped to handle various abdominal emergencies, and our team provides the care to ensure your well-being. You can also make your way to our emergency care department, where the experienced team will help you.