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How to Tell the Difference Between a Harmless Belly Ache and Intestinal Disease

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How to Tell the Difference Between a Harmless Belly Ache and Intestinal Disease

May 04, 2023

Belly aches are deceiving. The intensity of the pain isn’t a good measure of how serious the cause may be. For example, serious conditions such as colon cancer or early stages of appendicitis often cause only minor pain. 

Belly aches are almost always worth investigating, because symptoms alone aren’t enough to determine the cause, especially from home. Below, we asked our experts at Carolina Digestive Health Associates to explain when belly aches are most likely to be harmless, when it’s wise to schedule a doctor’s appointment, and when urgent care is needed. 

Different types of pain 

The type of pain you’re experiencing could provide a clue about what’s causing it. For example, acute, localized pain could indicate that the problem lies in a specific organ. 

Generalized pain that’s more spread out in your abdominal area is more likely to be caused by a virus, indigestion, or gas. Cramps followed by diarrhea are often the most harmless type, usually occurring due to food poisoning. 

You may need to see a specialist for sudden pain that increases in intensity and worsens with movement or the application of pressure.

Other symptoms associated with pain 

When pain is associated with other symptoms, it could be a sign it may not resolve on its own. Keep an eye on the following:

  • Bloating 
  • Gas 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal discomfort 
  • Weight loss 

Symptoms that may indicate the need for urgent care include the following:

  • Fever 
  • Blood in stools 
  • Severe constipation or diarrhea
  • Persistent vomiting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Yellow tint to the skin 

Even if your symptoms aren’t in the high-risk category, being under the age of 5 or above the age of 60, being pregnant, or having other comorbidities should prompt you to see a specialist. 

Pain duration 

With home care, small meals, plenty of fluids, and rest, the pain should resolve itself within 48 hours. However, if your pain persists or worsens, or if your appetite and energy levels worsen, you might benefit from seeing a specialist. 

Learning more about belly aches 

Everyone gets belly aches from time to time, but if a belly ache persists, or if it’s accompanied by serious symptoms, it may be a sign of something more serious. 

Our specialists have extensive experience treating intestinal diseases and can help you determine whether a virus, allergy, or disease is causing your pain. Get peace of mind and quick relief for your symptoms by scheduling an appointment at our office in Charlotte, North Carolina.