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When to See a Doctor for Abdominal Pain

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Updated May 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

When should you see a doctor for abdominal pain? Abdominal pain is a very common symptom that often needs no treatment. But there are also some very serious conditions that can cause abdominal pain and some are even emergencies.

Contact your doctor if you are experiencing abdominal pain:

  • That is dull and lasts for more than a week
  • That is significant and does not get better within 24-48 hours
  • That worsens and gets more severe or frequent
  • With bloating that lasts for more than 2 days
  • Along with unexplained weight loss
  • Along with diarrhea that lasts for more than 5 days (or, for children, diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days or vomiting that lasts more than 12 hours, for infants under 3 months - any vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Along with fever
  • Along with burning sensation or pain with urination

Seek emergency medical attention or call 911 if you have abdominal pain and:

  • You are unable to have a bowel movement -- especially if you are also vomiting
  • You are vomiting blood or have blood in your stool (could be bright red or dark and look similar to coffee grounds)
  • Chest, neck or shoulder pain
  • You have difficulty breathing
  • Your pain is sudden and extreme
  • You have nausea and pain in or between your shoulder blades
  • Your abdomen is hard and painful to touch
  • You are pregnant or could be pregnant
  • You have recently had an abdominal injury

Abdominal pain is a very common symptom that can be caused by something as simple as a stomach virus or as severe as a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Knowing when to seek medical attention for abdominal pain is important.

Sources:

"Abdominal Pain." Medline Plus 15 Nov 10. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 27 Nov 10.

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