Severe Stomach Pain: Causes & When to Go to the ER

when to go to er for stomach pain

Odds are, you’ve experienced stomach pain at some point in your life. Stomach pain isn’t exactly uncommon, but that doesn’t mean that it’s normal. It’s usually a sign that something is wrong — either you’re having trouble digesting a heavy or spicy meal, you ate too much candy, and it’s upsetting your stomach, or you’re more stressed than usual. None of these situations are necessarily life-threatening though, so how do you know when your severe stomach pain is a reason to visit the emergency room?

What causes severe stomach pain?

When you’re experiencing stomach pain — especially if it’s severe — it’s usually a problem that’s more serious than eating a spicy meal. Instead, the source is typically an organ not functioning correctly, the symptom of a condition, or the result of a sudden change within the body — such as is the case with dehydration. Some of the most common causes of severe stomach pain are:

5 Signs You Should Go to the ER for Severe Stomach Pain

Since some causes of severe stomach pain are life-threatening, it’s important that you recognize the signs, monitor your pain as it develops, and take note of any additional symptoms that may occur. If you’re experiencing severe stomach pain, you should visit an emergency room immediately if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Experienced the pain within a week of abdominal surgery or a gastrointestinal procedure
  • Have ever had a gastric bypass, colostomy, or bowel resection
  • Experienced pain after severe abdominal trauma
  • Have an abdomen that appears bruised or is rapidly expanding in size

In some cases, your stomach pain may begin as mild discomfort and develop in severity over time. If this is the case, you should visit an ER if you experience any of the following systems in addition to your severe stomach pain:

  • Your abdomen is extremely hard
  • Your abdomen is tender to touch
  • You’re coughing up or vomiting blood
  • You have persistent vomiting
  • You have bloody diarrhea
  • You have chest pain or pressure
  • You’re having difficulty breathing
  • You’re feeling dizzy
  • You’re fainting
  • You’re unable to have bowel movements without also vomiting
  • You have pain in your neck, shoulder, or between shoulder blades
  • Your vision changes

Diagnosing & Treating Your Severe Stomach Pain

The location of your severe stomach pain can provide insight into what may be causing issues. Your doctor will review your health history and give you pain medication to relieve your discomfort. They’ll also conduct a variety of tests to determine the root cause and rule out other possibilities. Common tests include:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
  • Liver function test
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

Once your doctor has diagnosed the source of your pain, they can provide treatment options to get you on the road to recovery. Your treatment plan will depend on the cause of your severe stomach pain but will include a prescription for pain medication to help relieve your symptoms. You should always talk to your doctor about your options before beginning any treatment plans.

24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one have a medical emergency, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Visit us online to find the Complete Care location nearest you.