‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with The Crawley Observer, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing.
Answers are provided weekly from our specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Surrey. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then we would like to help.
This question appeared in The Crawley Observer on Wednesday 6 March 2013, to readers across Surrey and Sussex. The question and answer is below, as it appeared in the newspaper.
Read the response by Dr Timothy Leigh, consultant gastroenterologist:
Dear Spire, for the past 6 months I have been getting abdominal pain and feeling bloated. This is getting me down and feel depressed. When I don’t feel it I forget about it and hope that it’s gone away. What could this be? How can I get this sorted? I have tried all sorts of things. Hope you can help. Rich, Broadfield.
Dear Rich, you don’t say how old you are, but the symptoms you have described are extremely common and it is most likely that they do not represent a serious underlying medical problem. Almost certainly these symptoms are coming from your bowel, and they can often be associated with other bowel symptoms such as loose stools, diarrhoea, and/or constipation. There are several different bowel conditions that can be associated with these symptoms, each requiring a specific type of treatment, and it may be necessary for your doctor to carry out some further investigations in order to establish the exact cause for these symptoms in your particular case. Once these investigations have been carried out, and the diagnosis has been established, the appropriate treatment can then be commenced. Specific symptoms which should require further investigation are the presence of unexplained bleeding or weight loss, persisting pain, and an alteration in bowel habit.
One of the most common conditions to present with symptoms similar to those you have described are categorized as a ‘functional’ bowel problem. This is also commonly called the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and the symptoms frequently respond to certain drugs, as well as making specific changes to your diet. In addition to these dietary stimuli, there are frequently other trigger factors for symptoms, in particular, emotional stimuli such as periods of stress, and in women hormonal changes through the menstrual cycle.
Individuals will frequently respond to a combination of measures including dietary manipulation as well as specific drugs to treat the most common symptoms of bowel spasm, diarrhoea and constipation.