Symptoms Of Abdominal Issues!
It’s common to experience a rumbling in the stomach every now and then or have mild digestive discomfort after eating a big meal, especially if the meal included spicy foods. These problems usually go away on their own. However, when gastrointestinal symptoms continue and pain begins to intensify, then it’s time to see your doctor.
Healthcare providers say there are a few gastrointestinal symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore since they can point to a more serious condition. “I’ve seen many cases where patients have waited way too long before seeking medical attention,” Dr. Christine Lee, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told AARP.
The following are 10 stomach-related symptoms that doctors say you should not ignore:
1. Prolonged diarrhea
Diarrhea is a major annoyance but it usually clears up within a few days. A loose, watery stool can be caused by a number of reasons, such as a food allergy, bacterial infection or long-term medication use. Prolonged diarrhea, however, can be a symptom of COVID-19 because it appears before other COVID symptoms, Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told AARP. If diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain lasts for more than a day, Dr. Spiegel recommends getting a COVID test rather than waiting for other COVID symptoms to appear.
2. Blood in your stool
Blood in your stool is not a good sign. In fact, it could be one of the first symptoms of colon cancer, especially if there is also a change in bowel habits or the shape of your stool. Blood in the stool is also a symptom of non-life threatening conditions, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures (tears in the lining of the anus), colon polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, and diverticulosis.
3. Severe cramps after eating
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common reason why severe cramps occur after eating. IBS is a chronic intestinal disorder that causes abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. IBS has been on the rise since the pandemic but health experts are not sure how COVID-19 is connected to IBS, Dr. Spiegel told AARP. The increase could be caused by the coronavirus changing the gut microbiome or the lining of the intestinal system and triggering IBS, or stress and anxiety linked to the pandemic. Severe cramping and abdominal pain could also be symptoms of a bowel obstruction, which is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment.
4. Difficulty Swallowing
It’s a scary feeling when your food gets stuck in your throat or it hurts when your food goes down. This could be a symptom of esophageal cancer, which occurs in the esophagus, the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. In addition to esophageal cancer, difficulty swallowing is also a symptom of eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE), a chronic allergic condition that causes the esophagus to become inflamed and prevents it from contracting properly. Other causes that can make it hard to swallow include an infection, an ulcer, a sore or scar tissue, which can develop due to chronic acid reflux.
5. Unexplained weight loss (especially if accompanied by abdominal pain)
Unintentional weight loss has several causes and a doctor should be able to determine the cause through testing. It’s a red flag if you’re having abdominal pain and lost 5 percent or more of your body weight within six to 12 months. According to a 2014 study published in the American Family Physician journal, cancer, peptic ulcers, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or an overactive thyroid are reasons for unexplained weight loss in people over 65.
6. Chronic or prolonged constipation (especially if you’re having pain)
Constipation is something that almost everyone has on occasion, and studies have found that older adults are more prone to experiencing it. You’re considered constipated if you have fewer than three bowel movements a week. It might not seem like a huge concern, but Dr. Nicholas E. Anthony, a gastroenterologist at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, cautions that if your constipation is left untreated, eventually, the stools in your colon may get so massive and firm that your body cannot expel them. Dr. Anthony warns that this could be painful and even fatal. Certain medications, a low-fiber diet, and medical conditions such as IBS, thyroid problems, diabetes, or, in rare instances, colon cancer, can lead to constipation.
7. Sudden, intense abdominal pain
Sharp pain that won’t go away might be a sign of acute appendicitis (if it’s on your lower right side), diverticulitis, or a serious infection. There are times when the sharp pain goes away quickly, such as when an athlete goes rock climbing and pulls a muscle, Dr. Lee said. However, when something serious is going on, the pain typically intensifies and doesn’t stop.
8. Frequent, severe or worsening heartburn
Older adults have occasional heartburn—a burning, painful sensation in the chest, which is typically treatable with over-the-counter drugs. However, when your heartburn is persistent, starts getting worse, and does not respond to medication, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which the valve between your stomach and esophagus doesn’t close correctly. If ignored, GERD can result in esophageal erosion, constriction, or Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. Acute heartburn may also be an indication of a hiatal hernia or esophageal cancer.
9. Swollen abdomen
It’s common to feel bloated after eating a large meal. Bloating is when your stomach feels full and tight, most often because of gas. But there’s a condition in which you can actually see your abdomen swell, and that’s called distension. With distension, you can actually measure the size of your abdomen because it’s swollen. If your abdomen remains swollen after you’ve had time to digest your meal, the swelling may indicate that too much fluid or gas has formed in your small intestine because of an obstruction, inflammation, bacterial overgrowth, or a gastrointestinal disorder.
10. Feeling full after eating very little
If you feel full even though you haven’t eaten much, you may have gastroparesis, a disorder in which food lingers in the stomach longer than it should. According to Dr. Anthony, gastroparesis can occur when a severe sickness “stunts the electrical system of the stomach.” Gastroparesis is a potential long-term side effect of COVID-19. It can also be caused by diabetes, influenza, and stomach surgery. If gastroparesis is not the reason for feeling full after eating very little, other causes include an ulcer, an obstruction or a tumor.
If you experience a persistent stomach problem that doesn’t seem to be going away, especially if it causes pain and other discomfort, Dr. Lee recommends scheduling a consultation with a gastroenterologist.
“The longer I do this, the more I realize that it doesn’t matter what the textbook says—patients know their bodies,” Dr. Lee told AARP. “If something is not normal for you, then it is a red flag, even if it’s not on the list of top five. If something bothers you, you should get it checked out.”