The next time that you drop something on your big toe, feel a twinge of stomach pain or suffer from a toothache, think about this: Some of the body parts that give us the most trouble may one day become extinct. Yep, scientists believe there are at least 15 unnecessary body parts that we can happily live without, including the appendix. Good thing too, because appendicitis is the number one cause of abdominal pain requiring surgery and it can land you in the ER with life-threatening complications if left untreated.
So for those of us who still have an appendix, here’s how to tell if it’s giving you problems or if it could be something else.
Stomach pain: where does it hurt?
Each year, over 10 million Americans go to an emergency room for abdominal pain — more than for any other complaint. When you think about all of the organs that are in there, it’s easy to understand why stomach pain often needs a professional diagnosis. Like chest pain, which is another warning sign that should never be self-diagnosed, stomach pain could indicate a number of different illnesses or conditions according to Steven Kaster, MD, a gastroenterologist at Medical City McKinney.
When to go to the ER with stomach pain.
It’s a good idea to get medical help for stomach pain that is:
- Severe or prolonged (lasting 24 or more hours)
- Accompanied by
- Blood in the urine or stool
- High fever
- Nausea or repeated vomiting
- Other serious or unusual symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or change in behavior
- Localized to one particular area
- Right upper could indicate cholecystitis or a gallbladder infection
- Right lower front could indicate appendicitis
- Right lower back could indicate kidney stones
- Left upper could indicate a ruptured spleen
- Left lower front could indicate diverticulitis or a colon infection
- Left lower back could indicate kidney stones
Passing a kidney stone: beyond a 10.
We won’t belabor this issue because David Cameron, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City McKinney, says passing a kidney stone will be the worst back pain and/or stomach pain of your life. You won’t have to guess if you should see a doctor immediately.
How to prevent kidney stones.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, each year more than half a million people are treated in emergency rooms for problems related to kidney stones. Men are nearly twice as likely to get them as women but they are on the rise across all demographics. High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity may increase risk for kidney stones.
Saravanan Balamuthusamy, MD, a nephrologist at Medical City Fort Worth, says that inflammatory bowel disease and a strong family history of kidney stones can also increase risk. In addition to pain, nausea and vomiting, symptoms can include blood in the urine, pain while urinating, unexplained fevers and urinary tract infections.
Diagnosing kidney stones goes beyond confirming that you have them. Because there are four main types of stones with different causes, in order to help prevent future stones doctors must figure out what kind of stones you have.
However, Dr. Balamuthusamy says there are six things everyone can do to help prevent the formation of kidney stones:
- Drink at least 60 ounces of water a day to flush stone-causing minerals out of your kidneys — especially when doing a lot of sweating
- To help prevent calcium oxalate stones, limit foods containing oxalates and balance them with calcium-rich foods when you do eat them
- Decrease your salt intake less than 3 grams daily and decrease your intake of sugar and sugary drinks
- Eat or drink foods high in citrate — including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit — but be sure to make sugar-free choices
- Avoid red meat, organ meats, shellfish, alcohol and crash diets/weight loss pills to help prevent uric acid stones
- Follow the advice of your doctor by sticking to prescribed dietary adjustments and medications — having even one kidney stone greatly increases your chances of having another and for developing chronic kidney disease
As for the other useless body parts that scientists say may one day disappear, those joining the appendix include:
- Body hair (no more shaving or waxing!)
- Toes (turns out, we no longer rely on them for balance when walking)
- Paranasal sinuses (buh-bye sinus infections!)
- Wisdom teeth (these bad boys are already becoming history, with a large percentage of the population missing one, two, three or even all four)
Until they go the way of the dodo bird, we know how important it is to take care of all of your body parts. When an accident or illness happens, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.