abdominal pain

Everyone suffers from abdominal pain or discomfort at some point in their lives. Abdominal pain normally occurs in the part of the trunk below the ribs, above the groin and the pelvis. It can be mild as well as severe also. Although abdominal pain is not normal, most of the time it resolves itself, and it isn’t necessarily serious.

But some specific forms of abdominal pain may specify a serious health problem, so it’s vital to know the signs that may suggest you have an underlying condition that requires medical attention.

Signs And Symptoms of Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can be of various forms. Based on the severity of the pain, abdominal pain can be defined in the following ways:

Generalized Pain

It is the most common pain felt in most parts of your abdominal area and is typical of indigestion, stomach viruses, or gas as the main cause of your pain.

Localized Pain

In this condition pain mostly occurs only in a single area of your abdomen, and is typical of a problem with an organ such as your appendix, stomach, or gallbladder as the root cause of your pain.

Cramping

The pain of cramping comes and goes, or changes in its perceived position or severity in your abdomen. It is rarely critical and is typical of passing a stool, gas, or menstruation as the main cause of your pain.

Colicky

This pain is also like cramping, it also comes and goes, but is likely to be severe and start and end suddenly. It’s typical of gallstones or kidney stones as the cause of your pain.

You should call your doctor if your abdominal pain is severe and you can’t move without feeling more pain, or are unable to sit still in a comfortable position.

Look for immediate medical help if your abdominal pain is followed by any of the symptoms given below:

Fever

Bloody stool

Vomiting and nausea that doesn’t resolve

Weight loss

Yellowish skin

Abdomen very tender to touch

Swollen abdomen

Causes And Risk Factors of Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can be caused by many reasons such as organ stretching or distention, inflammation (as in diverticulitis, appendicitis, or colitis), or loss of blood supply.

Some over-the-counter and prescription medications, also some dietary supplements, can cause stomach pain. Medications can irritate the stomach, leading to pain, nausea, and diarrhea, or affecting digestion, which results in constipation. Make sure to check the drug’s label to see the possible side effects and if abdominal pain is listed there or not.

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Below are the most common causes of abdominal pain that may cause the following health conditions:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Constipation

Peptic ulcer

Pancreatitis

Diverticulitis

Severe pain that needs emergency medical help tends to be caused by the following conditions:

Aortic aneurysm rupture

Intestinal or Stomach perforation

Torsion of a testicle or ovary

Some other potential causes of abdominal pain may include the following:

Gastritis

Menstrual cramps

Indigestion

Stomach virus

Food poisoning

Food allergies

Lactose intolerance

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Gas

Fecal impaction

Hernia

Gallstones

Kidney stones

Ulcerative colitis

Urinary tract infection

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Intestinal obstruction

Endometriosis

Appendicitis

Cancer

Ectopic pregnancy

Celiac disease

Pulled or strained abdominal muscle

In children, usual causes of abdominal pain include:

Constipation

Urinary tract infection, especially in girls ages 1 to 5

Strep throat

Appendicitis

Milk allergy

Lead poisoning, often from eating paint chips

Emotional upset

How Is Abdominal Pain Diagnosed?

The abdominal pain cause is diagnosed after analyzing your physical examination, symptom history, and testing if needed.

The doctor’s questions may address the following aspects of your abdominal pain:

How intense it is

Where it’s located

Whether it’s stabbing, dull, burning, or cramping

Whether it comes and goes

When you experience it most

Whether it extends outward to other areas of the body

How long you’ve had it

Whether any actions or activities seem to make it better or worse

Your doctor may also ask about any recent injuries, your overall health history, and whether you might be pregnant.

If your doctor suspects a serious health problem that needed to be treated, the tests given below might be used to diagnose the reason for your abdominal pain:

Blood, stool, or urine tests

X-ray of the abdomen

Ultrasound of the abdomen

CT scan of the abdomen

Barium enema

Endoscopic procedures

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

Prognosis of Abdominal Pain

The duration of your abdominal pain, and if it gets better or worse, is dependent on the reason for your pain and how your body responds to any treatments.

Most forms of abdominal pain simply get better on their own or like to respond to self-care measures, including pain caused by food allergies, constipation, intolerances, or stomach viruses.

Abdominal pain caused by severe chronic or acute conditions may need substantial treatment before it gets better, including pain caused by bowel obstruction, appendicitis, cancer, peptic ulcers, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Duration of Abdominal Pain

The duration of the abdominal pain depends on its underlying cause. It can be brief as well as long-lasting. It can be recurring, or ongoing, coming and going with certain activities or behaviors.

If severe pain comes suddenly it needs immediate medical attention. Some more conditions are ongoing pain that increases with coughing or movement, or if you have mild pain but is growing more severe with passing hours or days.

Treatment And Medication Options For Abdominal Pain

The treatment for any disease is dependent on its cause. The cause of your pain defines the treatment it needs which may involve over-the-counter or prescription medications, self-care measures, or procedures including surgery or drug injections.

Self-Care Measures

Mild abdominal pain can be treated easily with the help of short-term self-care measures such as the following:

Sipping clear fluids or water

Avoiding solid foods for a few hours

Resting until you feel better

Avoiding citrus fruits, dairy products, tomato products, fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages

Sticking to mild foods such as rice, crackers, applesauce or bananas

Don’t take ibuprofen, aspirin, or any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for abdominal pain, as these medications can disturb your stomach and enhance your pain.

Medication Options

If you are suffering from an underlying health problem that needs medical treatment then the doctor may prescribe some medications such as the following:

Drugs for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease

Antibiotics for the treatment of infection

Drugs for inflammation reduction

Treatments for inflammatory bowel disease

Procedures And Surgery

Some rare cases may need office procedures or surgery. These procedures may include the following:

Corticosteroid injections

Injection of a numbing agent

Hernia repair surgery

Appendectomy

Prevention of Abdominal Pain

In most cases, abdominal pain can be easily prevented with the help of adopting dietary choices and lifestyle changes that address the cause of your pain. Digestive upset, constipation, and even abdominal injury can be prevented.

The steps given below may help you prevent abdominal pain

Staying hydrated is very helpful in avoiding constipation.

Many individuals can train themselves for regular bowel movements that help to avoid constipation.

Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, and fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, helps support healthy digestion and constipation reduction.

Eating regular small meals, instead of starving first and then stuffing yourself, can help avoid pain due to eating on an empty stomach or overeating.

Exercising regularly can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and prevent constipation, which may help prevent straining.

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