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What can I do about burning stomach pains?

For the past few weeks I’ve had terrible burning pains in my stomach and feel very sick every day. I am struggling to eat. The doctor says it’s gastritis, but I’m also suffering nauseating headaches. The GP won’t refer me for a scan.

Gastritis, when the stomach lining becomes inflamed, is an incredibly common problem.

It feels rather like constant indigestion, but the symptoms vary hugely in terms of severity. Some sufferers feel nausea and burning in the stomach, and vomit frequently, as well as feeling discomfort after eating. Others have no symptoms.

There are many possible causes of gastritis. It’s often triggered by eating or drinking certain things, such as alcohol, caffeine or spicy, acidic food. But smoking can cause it, as can regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Stress can lead to gastritis, and it can also be the result of a chronic bacterial infection called helicobacter pylori. Many people with the infection have no symptoms, but for some it will cause regular indigestion.

It is important to take gastritis seriously because in some cases it can develop into severe problems, including stomach ulcers and even tumours.

A scan is not particularly useful in diagnosing gastritis. Instead, an endoscopy, or camera down the throat, would be able to detect inflammation. Tissue samples can also be taken.

This is an uncomfortable test but it is necessary if someone is so unwell they can’t eat, particularly over the age of 50 when cancer is more likely.

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I had my flu jab a month ago and soon afterwards started getting a tingling in my lip on the left side, which gradually went down my arm. It soon became difficult to speak. 

I thought I was having a mild stroke so I called an ambulance. By the time I got to hospital, my speech improved. Tests showed no trace of a bleed or clot. 

I was told it was probably a bad migraine and sent home. 

Yet she still hasn’t received a diagnosis.

We often think doctors are there only to treat health problems. In fact, many patients who visit their GP won’t necessarily want treatment – they are looking for answers.

People often suffer symptoms for which, unfortunately, no physical cause can be identified. Studies show this could be the case for up to a quarter of appointments with a GP.

Can this really be right?

When it comes to treating a stroke, acting fast is critical. You should call an ambulance or go to hospital as soon as the telltale signs start.

Signs of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke, where symptoms stop within 24 hours) include weakness in the limbs, changes in speech, and changes in the face or numbness.

When patients are taken to hospital with a suspected stroke, urgent brain scans are performed to spot a potential blood clot or bleed. These scans will also reveal any damage to the brain that is characteristic of a stroke.

Heart tests, checking blood vessels in the neck and a general cardiovascular risk assessment will also be done.

If everything looks normal and the symptoms quickly resolve, it is fair that doctors may rule out a stroke or TIA.

Other conditions can cause very similar sudden symptoms – including migraines. These can also lead to difficulty speaking, pins and needles or numbness, as well as the more commonly known visual symptoms. A migraine is thus easily mistaken for a stroke, particularly if it comes with speech symptoms.

It is worth following up an event of this kind with a GP appointment. The GP will consider personal risk factors and may arrange further tests.

My best friend has been in chronic pain for at least five years and takes strong prescription painkillers daily. 

She’s getting worse by the day and seems to be gaining weight, despite not being able to eat much. 

Reference: Daily Mail: Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday 

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