Is your stomach hurting? Learn when to see your doctor
Stomach symptoms are a very common condition and abdominal pain can be caused by many different factors. We recommend examining the causes of abdominal symptoms and the treatment options if the ailments start to affect your life. Consider whether you have lower abdominal pain, upper abdominal pain or intestinal pain.
Approximately 40% of the population suffer from upper abdominal discomfort at some point in their lives. Causes for this include acid reflux, which most commonly manifests itself as heartburn. Acid reflux means that some of the acidic content of the stomach rises to the oesophagus.
Many women are familiar with lower abdominal pain. The best way to find out the cause is to see a gynaecologist.
With age, bowel functions slow down, hemorrhoids start to show symptoms and diverticulosis may occur. The likelihood of benign and malignant tumours of the intestine also increases rapidly after the age of 50.
When should you see a doctor about stomach pain?
If you experience sudden and severe abdominal pain, you should see a doctor quickly and find the nearest Mehiläinen general practitioner.
Temporary and mild abdominal pain does not usually require an assessment by a doctor. However, if the stomach issues produce one of the following symptoms, for example, we recommend seeing a doctor:
- unexpected and severe changes in bowel functions, in terms of constipation or diarrhoea
- bowel functions start to fluctuate significantly
- difficulty defecating
- bloody or mucous stool
- black stool
- frequent abdominal pain
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
How is abdominal pain examined?
Basic examinations include a general examination carried out by a doctor. The examinations are complemented by basic laboratory tests, usually haemoglobin, inflammatory markers, lactose intolerance, antibodies to coeliac disease, and H. pylori. Sometimes, liver and pancreatic functions are also tested.
More in-depth examination of abdominal discomfort
If the causes of the symptoms cannot be identified in basic examinations, more in-depth examination of the gastrointestinal tract and the abdomen is considered. These include gastroscopy and colonoscopy.
Gastroscopy is performed when the doctor suspects a disease that requires treatment in the area of the oesophagus, stomach or the first part of the small intestine. Gastroscopy can be used to diagnose, for example, gastric ulcer or coeliac disease. During the examination, biopsies may be taken and polyps removed.
Colonoscopy is performed if the symptoms are suggestive of diseases of the rectum or colon. Colonoscopy helps ensure early diagnosis and access to treatment.
The doctor often decides to perform both gastroscopy and colonoscopy in order to determine the cause of the stomach problems.
If you wish, you can also request an endoscopy on your own initiative. This is especially recommended if you have a family history of cancer of the stomach or intestine, even if there are no signs or symptoms. The aim is to carry out the examination as pleasantly as possible; there is no need to be nervous.
Our customer service can guide you to the right specialist if necessary. You can also ask for advice on abdominal pain through the OmaMehiläinen app and the Digital Clinic online service, open 24/7.
Learn more about the possible causes of abdominal pain:
Ulcerative colitis (in Finnish)