How Do You Know If You Have Emergency Abdominal Pain?
The bottom line is that if you think you do,
contact your physician sooner, rather than later. Your symptomatic and long-term
treatment may be much more successful if begun early. You can get other clues
from the questions below.
Take Dr. Donnica's Decisionnaire™.
These are the specific questions your doctor or the emergency room physician
will probably ask you, in addition to all the general questions about your health,
past medical history, family history, and what drugs/medicines you take (prescription
and over the counter). Try to answer as many of these questions as you can.
It may help to print this page and write down the answers to take with you when
you see your doctor.
|___ || When was the first day of
your last period? This is the first question you will be asked. You will
also be asked if this was a "normal" period: Was the flow heavy or light?
Was it on time, early or late? If you might be pregnant or are trying to
get pregnant, say so right away.
|___ || What are you using for contraception?
Be honest if you are not using regular contraception. Your physician
may also ask frank questions about your partner(s) and other high risk behaviors.
These questions are not meant to embarrass or offend you, but they are intended
to help make a proper diagnosis and select the appropriate medical tests.
|___ || Severity: On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is the pain?
If you've given birth, how does it compare
to labor pain? How does it compare to menstrual cramps?
|___ || Location: Where is the pain now? Where was it when it began?
Think of dividing your belly into four sections, or "quadrants". Different
conditions are usually characterized by the location of their pain in the
right upper quadrant, the right lower quadrant, the left upper quadrant, or
the left lower quadrant. Some pain is "diffuse", meaning it's all
over your belly, whereas other pains localize in the upper half of the abdomen
or the lower half.
|___ || Referral: Does the pain
go to another location? For example, does it start somewhere specific and
then radiate elsewhere?
|___ || Quality: Is the pain
sharp, dull (like a toothache), "boring" (e.g. like a bull's horn going through
you), burning, crampy, or just overwhelming? If you've had this type of pain
before, how is it different this time?
|___ || Timing/Duration: How
long have you had the pain? Is this the first time you've had this particular
type of pain or have you had it before? When? Under what circumstances?
What happened that time? Does it wake you from sleep? Do you get it every
month? Does it come/go with your period? Does it occur after eating, drinking
alcohol, or exercising? If so, how much alcohol do you drink (regularly or
sporadically)? Describe your diet, especially spicy or fatty foods. Do you
binge eat or make yourself vomit?
|___ || What makes it better/what
makes it worse? This includes movement, positions, exercise, sex, foods,
medicines (prescription and over the counter), bowel movements or passing
gas, vomiting, etc. Give this some thought-the answers to these simple questions
can actually lead you to the operating room or away from it.
|___ || What other symptoms do you
have in addition to the pain? This includes everything that's just not
normal for you: Increased or decreased appetite, fever, chills, changes in
your bowel or bladder habits (constipation, diarrhea, increased or decreased
urination, burning with urination), blood coming from anywhere (stool, urine,
vagina, nose), pain elsewhere in your body, dizziness, or fainting.
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Created: 12/7/2000  - Donnica Moore, M.D.