Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why does my abdomen hurt when I eat or drink"
I am a 51 Year Old female and every time I eat or drink something my abdomen starts to hurt.It started only about 2 months ago,I don't have insurance and don't know If I should go to a doctor. I'm afraid to eat anything now.
There are a large number of reasons that people can have abdominal pain after eating. Some of them are benign and others are significantly more dangerous. Your age puts you in the category for being at risk for both the more bland causes of abdominal pain and some of the more serious ones. There are a number of questions that your doctor will ask to narrow down the likely cause of your pain. First, is the pain associated with any other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea? If the pain were to have been less than 2 months these symptoms might go along with an infectious cause such as a virus or bacteria. At two months these symptoms are less likely to be infectious, though certain parasites like giardia can still be the cause. Second, where is the pain located and does it go anywhere else? Different locations of pain can have different causes. For instance, if your pain is on the right side and under your ribs it might be related to your gallbladder. Sometimes this pain also goes to the shoulder because the nerve root that innervates the area around the gallbladder also supports the shoulder. Third, is the pain associated with certain foods and how long does it last? Certain meals such as those with more fatty foods or those with dairy products point to different causes for the pain. Again pain with fatty foods may suggest your gall bladder, whereas pain with dairy products may suggest lactose intolerance. Fourth, is the pain associated with position? Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is often made worse when lying down and tends to be more noticeable at night for this reason. Finally, what other medical problems do you have? A peptic ulcer can occur in people who have traveled to other countries where the bacteria that causes them is more common without having other medical problems whereas those with vascular disease such as coronary artery disease, strokes or TIAs, or aneurysms may be more prone to a disease called mesenteric ischemia. This is where the GI tract attempts to increase blood flow after meals to help with the work of digestion, but is unable to due to narrowed arteries. This is a condition much like coronary artery disease, except that it causes abdominal pain instead of chest pain. You should talk with your primary care doctor more about your symptoms and he/she can help guide you to the cause. Good luck!
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