Abdominal pain: when to see a doctor

Written by: Dr Aathavan Loganayagam
Published: | Updated: 14/11/2018
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Abdominal pain, often known as stomach, belly or tummy ache, usually refers to cramps or a dull ache in the belly (abdomen). It's usually short-lived and caused by a minor upset or stomach bug.
 

What is abdominal pain?

Stomach cramps are often due to bloating and trapped wind. This is an extremely common problem that can be embarrassing but is easily dealt with; your pharmacist can recommend an over the counter product to relieve the wind. If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause is probably gastroenteritis. This means you have a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel which your immune system will usually fight off after a few days. Severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea that make you feel very ill (for example, causing chills or a fever) could be due to a more serious infection, such as food poisoning. This will usually get better on its own without treatment.

 

When should I see a specialist?

You should consider seeing your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Severe pain that is getting worse
  • Weight loss
  • Blood from the bowel
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Fever
  • Yellow-looking skin
  • Pain when touching the abdomen
  • A swollen stomach
  • Difficulty swallowing



If you have sudden, agonising pain in a particular area of your belly, seek medical help immediately. It may be a sign of a serious illness, such as appendicitis, that will rapidly get worse without treatment. If you feel pain higher up, in the area above your ribs, it could be related to the chest.
 

How can abdominal pain be treated?

Some medicines, such as aspirin and anti-inflammatory and anti-dementia drugs, can cause stomach pain as a side effect. If you suspect this is the case, then consult a pharmacist or your doctor for a review of your medicines.

 

For any concerns about abdominal pain book an appointment with one of our top gastroenterologists

By Dr Aathavan Loganayagam
Gastroenterology

Dr Aathavan Loganayagam is a leading London gastroenterologist who trained in medicine at Guy’s, King's and St Thomas’ medical schools. He underwent rigorous structured specialty training in gastroenterology and general internal medicine in the well respected South London training programme.

Dr Loganayagam spent two years during postgraduate training as a research and endoscopy fellow at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, London. His research was in the fields of pharmacogenetics, inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal malignancy.

He has received many awards and grants for outstanding research work, including the prestigious NHS Innovation London Award. Dr Loganayagam has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals on all aspects of gastroenterology. He is actively involved in clinical research.

Currently, Dr Loganayagam is the lead clinician for inflammatory bowel disease and nutrition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich. Diagnostic and advanced therapeutic endoscopy remains a major part of his clinical expertise, including assessment and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, strictures, polyps and cancers.

Dr Loganayagam is an approachable doctor who takes pride in his communication skills with patients and he is keen to ensure that patients are fully informed and involved in all aspects of their care.

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