A good doctor must evaluate the symptoms of abdominal pain care fully. In properly assessing the implications of pain in the abdomen, the individual must always keep in mind that the pain is only a symptom and not a disease or specific disorder in itself. The pain may signify much or little or may provide only a very small clue to the affected person as to what is wrong. Cramps, for example, may result from indigestion, or from normal menstruation in women, or may an early sign of inflammation or obstruction of the viscera. A colicky pain may indicate an obstruction in the intestine or the bowel or may signal the presence of biliary stones. Nausea may result from food poisoning, an intestinal virus, or even a severe headache. Thus, not all abdominal pain is due to disease in the digestive tract.
And furthermore, not all pain felt in the abdomen indicates a disorder of the abdominal viscera. Some pain may originate from outside the abdominal cavity—for instance from a heart attack or a bout of pneumonia.
From even these few examples it can easily be seen that the individual will usually be at a loss even to attempt to determine what might be wrong, and must seek expert advice in most cases. The most significant contribution anyone can make to his own diagnosis and treatment, aside from providing a complete history, once in the doctor’s office, is to make a realistic determination at some point during the course of his discomfort as to whether it seems to require medical attention.