A doctor usually will take a
medical history and do a physical exam if you have symptoms of
If your medical problem
affects your abdomen, your doctor will ask questions (medical history) about:
Your bowel function, including the number of
times a day or week you pass a stool, changes in how often you feel the need to
go to the bathroom, the size and shape of your stool, any blood or mucus in
your stool, and whether you have diarrhea or
Abdominal (belly) pain, including when the pain first began,
where it is located, how severe it is, how long it lasts, how often it occurs,
whether it gets worse when you move, whether anything makes it better or worse,
and whether you have had similar pain in the past.
Whether you have
had a fever or chills.
Urinary problems, including whether you have
frequent urination, you have burning when you urinate, your urine has a strong
odor, or you pass air or stool from your urethra (a sign that you may have an
opening, or fistula, between your colon and urinary tract).
family history of similar symptoms.
Your use of laxatives or
Abdominal tenderness and when it began.
you are a woman, whether you have had any changes in your period, any vaginal
discharge, or any infections or inflammations of the pelvic
Any previous abdominal surgery.
Any weight loss
A dietary history includes questions
about the amount of fiber, fat, and salt in your diet. If your symptoms are
mild and occur only sometimes, your doctor may recommend that
you try a high-fiber, low-fat diet.
During the physical exam to learn the cause of an abdominal
problem, your doctor will:
Check your temperature to see if you have a
Listen to your heart and lungs.
swelling in your abdomen.
Feel or press on (palpate) your abdomen
and your back over your kidneys. While doing this, the doctor may
check for enlargement of your liver or spleen. The doctor also may
look for any hard or painful spots.
Examine your rectum, and check
your stool for blood.
Do a pelvic exam (in women) to learn
whether a problem with your reproductive organs could be causing your
Why It Is Done
A history and physical exam are
needed for anyone who sees a doctor about abdominal pain or
tenderness or a change in bowel habits.
Your medical history and physical exam can
provide your doctor with clues about the cause of your symptoms.
Your doctor then may decide to do more tests (especially if there
are several possible causes for your symptoms or if the cause is still
unclear), begin treatment, or both.
What To Think About
If your symptoms are not severe,
your doctor may recommend a change in your diet and watchful