Abdominal Pain: Overview, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

abdominal pain

Overview

Abdominal pain is a symptom characterized by discomfort between the chest and pelvic regions. All of these symptoms, along with cramping, discomfort, dullness, and occasional stomach pain are possible. When referring to it, the term “stomachache” is frequently used to describe it.

In certain cases, abdominal pain may occur as a consequence of an infection or disease that affects one or more of the organs located in the abdomen including the spleen, stomach, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas. Stomach and intestine infections, whether viral, bacterial, or parasitic in origin, may result in severe stomach and intestinal pain and discomfort.

Symptoms

The symptom can be described as cramping-like, colicky, or localized.

In the abdomen, localized pain refers to the discomfort that occurs exclusively in a specific area of the body. This kind of pain is often caused by problems with a specific organ or set of organs. Stomach ulcers are the most common cause of localized abdominal pain, as it results in open sores on the inner lining of the stomach that leads to abdominal pain.

Constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating are all conditions that cause cramping to occur. Irregular menstruation cycles, miscarriage, and other reproductive issues in women cause cramp-like abdominal pain; however stomach cramps come and go. Abdominal cramps may go away on their own without the need for medical intervention in certain instances.

Colicky pain in infants is a symptom of a more severe condition, such as gallstones or kidney stones. When this pain comes suddenly, it may seem to the person experiencing it as though they are suffering a severe muscle spasm.

Causes

Abdominal pain may be caused by a number of medical problems, including pregnancy. It is most common for intestine issues to be caused by infection, abnormal growth, inflammation, obstruction (blockage), and intestinal anomalies. Infection is the most common cause of intestinal problems. A throat, intestinal, or blood infection may cause germs to enter the digestive tract and cause stomach pain and discomfort. As a consequence of the disease, you may have digestive issues such as diarrhea or constipation.

Other than menstrual cramps, a number of other causes may lead to discomfort in the lower abdomen as well. Pelvic pain is the most common kind of discomfort.

Some other common causes for this symptom are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Stress
  • Vomiting
  • Acid reflux

There are certain diseases that affect the digestive system and cause sharp pain in the stomach, which is chronic in nature. These diseases include:

  • GERD; i.e. gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Crohn’s disease; i.e. inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lactose intolerance

Sometimes severe abdominal pain is also caused by:

  • Organ rupture as can occur in appendicitis
  • Gallstones
  • Kidney infection and stones

The location of the discomfort may be able to identify the cause of the discomfort. A physical examination of the area in which you are suffering abdominal pain may aid in determining where the source of the discomfort is coming from.

One of the following conditions may be indicated by persistent stomach discomfort (rather than pain in a specific location):

  • Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed
  • Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder that affects the intestines
  • IBS is a gastrointestinal disease that is characterized by inflammation
  • A urinary tract infection

Sharp pain in the lower abdomen indicates:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Appendicitis
  • Intestinal obstruction

Pain in the lower abdomen in women is possibly caused by:

  • Fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Miscarriage

The following are the conditions that lead to upper abdominal pain:

  • Gallstones
  • Hepatitis
  • Heart attack

Sharp pain in the lower abdomen is possibly due to the below conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Kidney infection

Pain in the upper abdomen is possibly caused by the following conditions:

  • Injury
  • Heart attack
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Fecal implantation; i.e. hardening of the stool due to which there is difficulty in its elimination

Sharp pain in the lower right abdomen near the hip bone can be due to the following conditions:

  • Appendicitis (may also cause dull pain in the lower right abdomen that comes and goes)
  • Hernia
  • Kidney infection

Sharp pain on the upper right side of the stomach is possibly from the following conditions:

  • Pneumonia
  • Appendicitis
  • Injury

Treatment

The treatment for abdominal pain depends on its underlying cause. Since abdominal pain can be caused by a wide range of conditions, it is essential to identify the specific cause before determining the most appropriate treatment. Here are some general guidelines for treating abdominal pain:

  1. Seek Medical Evaluation: If you experience severe, persistent, or worsening abdominal pain, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately. A healthcare professional will diagnose the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.
  2. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may provide temporary relief for mild abdominal pain. However, it’s essential to consult a doctor before taking any medication, as some pain relievers may worsen certain conditions.
  3. Rest and Hydration: In some cases, rest and increasing fluid intake can help alleviate mild abdominal discomfort, especially if it’s due to a minor digestive issue.
  4. Dietary Changes: If the pain is related to digestive issues, avoiding certain trigger foods, adopting a balanced diet, and eating smaller, more frequent meals may be beneficial.
  5. Antibiotics: If abdominal pain is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the underlying infection.
  6. Surgical Intervention: In more severe cases, such as appendicitis or certain gastrointestinal conditions, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the inflamed or damaged tissues.
  7. Lifestyle Modifications: For chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), making lifestyle changes like stress management, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can be helpful in managing abdominal pain.

When To See a Doctor

If you have mild stomach pain, it may resolve on its own without the need for medical attention. The doctor may be required to see you if you are experiencing stomach pain in specific circumstances. You should seek medical care if your stomach pain is severe and is linked with trauma (such as an accident or injury), or if you are experiencing chest pressure or discomfort.

Seek immediate medical attention if your pain is so severe that you are unable to sit still or must curl into a ball in order to be comfortable. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, get medical attention immediately:

  • Feces that are reddish-brown in color
  • Bout of nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling or severe stomach discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing

If you observe any of the symptoms listed below, you should see your doctor:

  • Stomach discomfort that lasts for more than 24 hours
  • Constipation that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • A burning feeling when urinating

You should contact your primary care physician right away if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and are suffering from abdominal pain.



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