Stomach Symptoms You Should Not Ignore


The human stomach is a vital organ responsible for the digestion of food and plays a crucial role in maintaining overall well-being. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience occasional stomach discomfort or digestive issues. However, some stomach symptoms can be indicative of underlying health conditions that require immediate attention. Ignoring these symptoms may lead to serious consequences, including complications and delayed treatment. In this article, we will discuss several stomach symptoms that should not be ignored and explore potential causes and when to seek medical advice.

  1. Persistent Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a common symptom that can stem from various factors, such as indigestion, gas, or muscle strain. However, persistent or severe abdominal pain should not be disregarded. It could be a sign of serious conditions like appendicitis, gallstones, ulcers, pancreatitis, or even abdominal aortic aneurysm. If the pain is accompanied by fever, vomiting, blood in the stool, or difficulty breathing, immediate medical attention is crucial.

  1. Unexplained Weight Loss

While intentional weight loss through diet and exercise is generally considered healthy, unexplained weight loss without any change in lifestyle or intentional effort may indicate an underlying health issue. Gastrointestinal conditions like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers, or even certain types of cancer, including stomach cancer or pancreatic cancer, can lead to unexplained weight loss. If you notice a significant and unexplained decrease in your weight, it is essential to consult a gastroenterologist.

  1. Persistent Heartburn or Acid Reflux

Occasional heartburn or acid reflux is quite common and can often be managed with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medications. However, if you experience frequent or persistent heartburn, it could be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort. If left untreated, GERD can lead to complications such as esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. Seeking medical advice is crucial for proper diagnosis and management.

  1. Blood in Stool or Black, Tarry Stools

Finding blood in your stool or noticing black, tarry stools can be alarming and may indicate bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. This symptom can be caused by conditions like ulcers, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, or even colorectal cancer. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment.

  1. Sudden Changes in Bowel Habits

Any sudden changes in bowel habits, such as persistent diarrhea or constipation, should not be ignored. Chronic diarrhea may be a symptom of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis. On the other hand, persistent constipation could be a sign of underlying issues like intestinal obstruction, thyroid disorders, or colorectal cancer. Consulting a gastroenterologist can help identify the cause and provide appropriate management options.

  1. Persistent Nausea or Vomiting

While occasional nausea and vomiting can be attributed to various factors, persistent or severe episodes should not be overlooked. Prolonged nausea and vomiting can be caused by conditions like gastritis, peptic ulcers, gallbladder disease, or even kidney or liver problems. Additionally, if you notice blood in your vomit or experience severe abdominal pain along with nausea and vomiting, urgent medical attention is crucial.

  1. Swallowing Difficulties

Experiencing difficulties while swallowing, also known as dysphagia, can be a worrisome symptom that should not be ignored. It may indicate underlying issues such as esophageal stricture, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or even esophageal cancer. If you find it challenging to swallow solids or liquids, or if you frequently experience food getting stuck in your throat, seeking medical evaluation is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  1. Persistent Bloating or Distention

Feeling bloated or experiencing abdominal distention occasionally is normal, especially after a heavy meal. However, persistent bloating or a noticeable increase in abdominal size without apparent reason should be addressed. It could be a sign of gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, or even conditions like ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids. Consult your gastroenterologist to identify the cause and determine the appropriate management approach.

  1. Jaundice

Jaundice is characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes and is often associated with liver or gallbladder problems. It occurs when there is a buildup of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced by the liver. Conditions such as hepatitis, gallstones, or liver cirrhosis can lead to jaundice. If you notice yellowing of your skin or eyes, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly.

  1. Severe Indigestion or Upset Stomach

While indigestion or an upset stomach can occur due to dietary indiscretions or mild digestive disturbances, persistent or severe symptoms should not be ignored. Chronic indigestion may be a sign of underlying conditions like gastritis, peptic ulcers, gallbladder disease, or even gastric cancer. If you experience recurrent or worsening indigestion, it is advisable to consult a gastroenterologist for an evaluation.

  1. Change in Appetite

Significant changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or an unexplained increase in hunger, can be indicative of underlying health issues. Conditions like stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal infections, thyroid disorders, or even psychological factors such as stress or depression can affect appetite. If you notice a persistent change in your appetite, it is essential to consult with a gastroenterologist to determine the cause.

  1. Persistent Fatigue or Weakness

While fatigue and weakness can be caused by various factors, including inadequate sleep or excessive physical exertion, persistent or unexplained fatigue should be evaluated further. Chronic stomach issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or gastrointestinal bleeding can lead to nutrient deficiencies, resulting in fatigue and weakness. If you experience prolonged fatigue despite adequate rest, it is important to consult a gastroenterologist.

Bottom line

Ignoring stomach symptoms can have serious consequences, as they may be indicative of underlying health conditions that require prompt attention. Whether it’s persistent abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, frequent heartburn, blood in stool, or any other concerning symptom, seeking medical advice is crucial for proper diagnosis and timely treatment. Remember, early detection and intervention can significantly improve outcomes and prevent complications. Take charge of your health and prioritize seeking professional help when needed.

How can I contact gastroenterologist Dr. Zavos to arrange an appointment?

Dr. Chris Zavos is a board-certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist, located in Thessaloniki Greece, and specifically in Kalamaria suburb, about 7 kilometres (4 miles) southeast of downtown Thessaloniki. His private office is at: Fanariou 8 street (near Aigaiou and Adrianoupoleos avenues), Kalamaria (Thessaloniki), Greece.

Thessaloniki International Airport is only 10 km away from his private office in Kalamaria and can be reached by taxi within 13 minutes from the airport.

Dr. Chris Zavos performs endoscopies at Bioclinic private hospital in downtown Thessaloniki (Mitropoleos 86 street).

You can contact Dr. Zavos at phone numbers: (+30)-6976596988 and (+30)-2311283833, or you can email him at Dr. Zavos responds to Greek and English languages.

Last update: 26 September 2023, 18:56


Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist, Thessaloniki

PhD at Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

PGDip at Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, The Netherlands

Ex President, Hellenic H. pylori & Microbiota Study Group