Acute abdominal pain is discomfort that occurs for short periods of time anywhere in the region between the lower ribs and hip bones. The pain may be generalized, spreading over at least half the abdomen, or localized to one spot. Cramping pain comes and goes and varies in intensity. The sudden onset of extremely severe pain is often associated with serious health conditions that require immediate treatment.
Your abdominal area is home to a diverse family of organs, including your stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys and pancreas. This can make abdominal pain difficult to diagnose. To get an idea of the underlying cause, doctors generally consider your history, the patterns the pain follows, how long you’ve been in pain and what factors make it better or worse. Based on this, you may be diagnosed with:
• Crohn’s disease
• Indigestion or GERD
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Kidney infection
• Menstrual cramping
• Stomach or intestinal infection
• Ulcerative colitis
• Urinary tract infection
Sometimes pain is caused by something as simple as gas pressure, but in some cases, it may be due to a more serious problem such as intestinal perforation, loss of blood flow to the intestines, bowel obstruction, liver inflammation, cancer or kidney and gallbladder diseases. Heart problems, such as angina and thoracic aortic aneurysm, may also cause you to experience pain in your abdomen.
When to See a Doctor
Pain that appears out of nowhere, becomes steadily worse or goes from generalized to local should be checked by a doctor. You should also seek medical attention if your pain results from trauma or injury, or if you develop one of more of the following symptoms:
• Bloody stool
• Nausea or vomiting that won’t go away
• Yellow skin
• Swollen abdomen
• Abdominal tenderness
• Pain that interrupts daily life
In the event that you’re unable to wait to see your regular doctor, visit your local urgent care center. The physicians there can give you an exam, evaluate your symptoms and perform any necessary testing, such as X-rays or blood tests, much more quickly than the staff in an emergency room.
The range of infections referred to as “stomach flu” isn’t the flu at all. Common gastrointestinal symptoms are actually caused by:
• Bacteria, including foodborne pathogens
Norovirus is responsible for the greatest number of viral cases, although rotavirus is a more common gastrointestinal infection in children. Foodborne illnesses, also called food poisoning, may be caused by bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, although many other pathogens have been found circulating in the food supply.
Viral gastrointestinal diseases are spread through contact, so regular hand washing can help prevent infection. To avoid foodborne pathogens, practice proper food preparation techniques and kitchen sanitation practices when handling raw meat and eggs.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Stomach infection symptoms are the result of inflammation or irritation of the stomach and intestinal lining caused by the underlying illness. Symptoms vary from one condition to another and may include:
To diagnose a gastrointestinal disease, your doctor will do a symptom review and give you a physical exam. He or she may also take a stool culture or perform an endoscopy to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
Stomach Infection Treatment
In serious cases of bacterial gastroenteritis, antibiotics may be prescribed to fight the infection. Other gastrointestinal diseases generally run their course without medical intervention. Until symptoms resolve, prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance by drinking plenty of fluids, including natural electrolyte balancers such as coconut water. Follow a bland diet that emphasizes bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (BRAT) to avoid stressing the digestive system. Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications may impede the body’s ability to clear the infection and should only be used as a last resort.
Serious cases of stomach infection may cause:
• Dry skin or dry mouth associated with dehydration
• Bloody stools or blood in vomit
• High fever
• Vomiting that persists for more than two days
If any of these symptoms develop or your gastrointestinal infection doesn’t resolve on its own, head to your local urgent care center for immediate treatment.
A headache is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “pain in any region of the head.” This common condition may develop gradually or appear suddenly as the result of a variety of factors.
Primary headaches occur without an underlying condition. These include cluster headaches, tension headaches, and migraines. Secondary headaches are caused by chronic diseases, structural defects or illnesses, such as in the case of a sinus headache. Some head pain may manifest in response to triggers that include food or food additives, stress, excessive physical exertion, environmental changes, medication, bright lights, and chemical exposure.
Pain is the main symptom of a headache and may appear in one of the following forms:
Migraine sufferers may experience additional complications, including:
Discomfort from migraines may last for several days. Some people can tell that they’re about to get a migraine by the presence of an “aura” that precedes the condition. Examples of aura include seeing spots, shapes or flashes of light or feeling pins and needles in the extremities.
Learning to recognize triggers can help prevent headaches and migraines. Pay attention to what foods you eat, how much caffeine you drink and the weather conditions around the times that you get headaches and look for patterns to determine potential causative factors.
If you do develop pain in any area of your head, resting in a dark room may help alleviate it. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen can also offer temporary relief. Other medications, including triptans and ergotamine, may help to stave off migraines.
Most headaches don’t require medical treatment. However, if you develop a fever or experience confusion, fainting, neck stiffness, difficulty seeing, trouble speaking, or numbness or weakness on one side of your body, get to an urgent care center or emergency room immediately. These symptoms could indicate a more serious underlying condition.
Common infections that cause inflammation in the lungs will produce similar symptoms with varying degrees of severity. It’s necessary to differentiate between the most prevalent to know whether your condition is serious enough to warrant emergency care.
Most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses and are classified as acute. Some people suffer from a chronic form that recurs several times per year. Any weakness in your immune system puts you at higher risk for contracting the disease.
Pneumonia can develop independently or as the consequence of another condition. Bacteria are the most common cause, but viral and fungal types also exist. High-risk groups include young children and seniors.
The most recognizable symptom of bronchitis is a hacking cough that causes pain in the lungs. Other symptoms include:
If you have pneumonia, you may also experience:
Symptoms of either disease that persist or grow progressively worse should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
Doctors often perform chest X-rays in addition to physical exams to diagnose lung infections and rule out more serious conditions. Tests may also be done on mucus or fluid from the lungs. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, and the duration of viral strains can be shortened with antiviral drugs. If you have a severe case, you may be admitted to the hospital.
Viral bronchitis is commonly treated with home care, such as resting, drinking adequate fluids, running a humidifier and taking over-the-counter cough suppressants or fever reducers as necessary.
The easiest way to know what kind of lung infection you have is to see your doctor. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms or your child contracts an infection when your regular care provider is unavailable, head to an urgent care center. Catching and treating the illness early can help prevent complications and support faster recovery.
Suffering from common gynecological conditions can be embarrassing, but it’s important to see your doctor if you develop symptoms because some of these diseases may lead to serious complications if left untreated.
One of the most recognized gynecological problems is a woman’s period, the normal monthly menstruation cycle meant to prepare the body for pregnancy. Some women have very light periods. Others experience heavy bleeding known as menorrhagia that may be caused by an underlying condition. Women are also susceptible to yeast infection from candida. Although this fungal disease is usually associated with vaginal symptoms, it does occasionally occur in men.
Sexually active men and women are at risk for common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including:
People who have sexual intercourse with multiple partners or who engage in risky sexual behaviors are more like to contract an STD.
Certain STDs can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system or other parts of the body and need to be treated immediately. Watch for symptoms such as bumps or warts in the area of your sexual organs, discharge from the penis or vagina, pain during sex, unusual vaginal bleeding, itching around the sex organs or unexplained skin rashes.
Yeast infections are more uncomfortable than serious and may present with pain during sex, a sore or red vaginal area, “cottage cheese” vaginal discharge or an itchy rash on or near the penis.
Many women experience cramping, bloating and mood swings during their periods. Slightly elevated body temperature and cravings for particular foods may also occur.
If you test positive for an STD, your doctor will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic. Yeast infections are usually treated using over-the-counter or prescription-strength antifungal creams. For women who suffer from painful menstruation, standard painkillers, herbal treatments, heating pads and light exercise are often recommended.
Gynecological problems can be treated quickly and discreetly at an urgent care center. The sooner you get diagnosed and put on the correct course of medication, the sooner the condition will clear up.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) may affect any part of the urinary system, including the urethra, bladder, kidneys or ureters.
The most common cause of a uniary tract infection is the migration of intestinal bacteria into the urethra. Bacteria may then travel to other parts of the system. Women are at higher risk due to shorter urethra length and the proximity of the urethra to the anus. Sexual activity may increase the risk of infection. Surgery on the urinary tract or any procedure that requires a catheter can result in infection, and sometimes bacteria that are already in your blood or lymph system can be the culprit.
Uninary tract infection symptoms tend to follow fairly recognizable standard patterns:
• Frequent urge to urinate
• Burning or pain when urinating
• Pink, red, cloudy or foul-smelling urine
• Low volume but high frequency of urination
• Fever with chills
Kidney infections often present with a high fever accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and chills that cause shaking. Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area is more common in bladder infections. If your most persistent symptom is a burning sensation, the infection is likely in your urethra.
After taking a urine sample, your doctor may perform a culture to confirm what’s causing your UTI symptoms. For a bladder infection, he or she may put you on antibiotics for three to seven days. Kidney infections can require up to two weeks of treatment or hospitalization if the condition is serious enough. Home treatments for UTIs include drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, using a heating pad and taking pain relievers.
UTIs aren’t usually serious, but if the infection spreads to the kidneys, it may result in a life-threatening case of sepsis. Untreated or frequent infections can lead to kidney damage or structural abnormalities in the urethra. If you experience any symptoms of a UTI, or if you develop additional symptoms that include pain just below the rib cage on one or both sides of your back, bloody urine or pus in your urine, visit an urgent care center immediately for fast treatment.
The skin is the largest organ on the body and is in constant contact with the outside world. This contact can result in a number of infections and disorders with unpleasant symptoms that may need to be treated by a doctor.
Skin problems may result from bacteria, such as a staph infection; fungi, as in the case of ringworm; or viruses like chicken pox. Yeast is another common cause of skin infection. These conditions may be acute or chronic, and each has its own set of symptoms.
Many people also experience abscesses. An abscess is a small bump, usually red in color, filled with fluid or pus. These unsightly bumps can appear anywhere but are often found around hair follicles. The bumps are usually benign, but in some cases, they may be signs of a more serious infection.
In order to distinguish between the wide variety of possible skin conditions, doctors need to know the exact combination of symptoms you’re experiencing. Most are easily visible, but it’s important to report the ones that aren’t so that the correct treatment can be chosen.
Depending on the type of infection, you may experience:
Individuals with compromised immunity or those suffering from injuries that leave breaks in the skin are at increased risk for skin infections.
Mild skin problems may be treated using over-the-counter creams or lotions. Aggressive cases of psoriasis, eczema and other conditions could require prescription-strength topical treatments. Antibiotics are sometimes used to address bacterial infections, and persistent abscesses may need to be drained by a doctor.
If you have a skin condition and that refuses to clear up, begins to spread or is accompanied by symptoms such as fever, nausea, swelling or drainage, it’s time to get medical attention. A local urgent care office is often the fastest way to be seen and get on the road to recovery.