If your stomach is upset, chances are you are too.
After all, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea can make you miserable, especially when they persist.
Still, as disruptive as they may be, stomach problems in particular can be tricky to diagnose.
That’s because a whole host of medical problems —: including ulcers, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections and even certain cancers —: can produce similar symptoms, says Josune Iglesias, MD, a primary care physician at Rush University Medical Center.
Stress can also bring on abdominal problems. “Even undiagnosed depression can cause symptoms such as chronic stomach pain,” Iglesias says.
All this means that finding the source of your symptoms requires a committed doctor —: one who will take your symptoms seriously; conduct a thorough physical examination; order appropriate medical tests, such as a stool culture or abdominal ultrasound, to rule out serious medical problems; or refer you to specialists, such as a gastroenterologist, for further, more specific testing.
Your Role Is Key
There’s much you can do to help your doctor accurately diagnose and treat your condition. Consider this advice from Iglesias:
- Closely monitor your symptoms. It might help to keep a written diary of your symptoms, noting what they are, when they occur and what makes them better or worse.
- Follow through with all appointments or suggested tests.
- Always let your doctor know if a treatment doesn’t help.
Never Shrug Off Symptoms
The good news is that your symptoms are most likely caused by a fairly minor or manageable health problem. But occasionally, abdominal symptoms are a warning sign of a life-threatening disease, such as ovarian cancer.
Traditionally, ovarian cancer has been considered a silent killer that doesn’t produce symptoms until it has spread and is difficult to treat successfully.
“But growing evidence suggests that often ovarian cancer does produce symptoms in its early, curable stages,” Iglesias says.
These persistent symptoms include the following:
- Digestive problems, such as gas, bloating or indigestion
- A sense of fullness in the pelvic area
- Abdominal pain, such as cramping, or swelling
These symptoms are especially worrisome if they come on suddenly and are accompanied by a frequent need to urinate.
“Ovarian cancer is rare, so don’t panic if you have these symptoms. But do see a doctor if they persist for more than a few weeks,” Iglesias emphasizes.
Abdominal symptoms, whenever they linger, warrant a doctor’s close attention.
- To learn more, join us on July 11, 2007, for the free class, “Women’s Health Talks: Pelvic Pain, Stomachaches and Bleeding Disorders.”
Gastroenterology and Care for Digestive Disorders at Rush
The gastroenterology and nutrition program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the Midwest.
Staffed by some of the nation’s top specialists, the gastroenterology team at Rush offers specialized treatment and follow-up care for adults with a wide array of digestive and gastric disorders, including Barrett’s esophagus, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.
For more information about gatroenterological care at Rush visit our Gastroenterology and Nutrition home page.
Looking for Other Health Information?
- Visit our Health Information home page.
- Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.
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