What Is Abdominal Pain?

abdominal-pain-s1-factsJust about everybody at one point or another will experience abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is the feeling of pain in a person’s stomach, upper or lower abdomen, and can range in intensity from a mild stomach ache to severe acute pain.

Causes of abdominal pain vary and may include gallbladder disease, ulcers of the stomach, food poisoning, food allergies, gas, lactose intolerance, kidney stones, urinary tract infection, diverticulitis, appendicitis, indigestion, constipation, stomach flu, menstrual cramps, hernia, cancers, female diseases or problems (for example, fibroids, cysts, STDs), and vascular problems. Some women experience abdominal pain during pregnancy.

Abdominal pain can be acute or chronic and include sharp pain as well as dull pain. Most of the causes of abdominal pain are not serious and can be readily diagnosed and treated. However, pain can also be a sign of a serious illness.

Abdominal Pain in Children:

About one out of three children is seen by a doctor for abdominal pain by the time they are 15, but only a small number of these children have a serious problem. Abdominal pain in children is often frightening and frustrating for parents since it is often hard to find the exact cause of a child’s abdominal pain. Pain without other symptoms that goes away completely in less than 3 hours is usually not serious.

What Symptoms of Abdominal Pain Are Cause for Concern?

If your abdominal pain is severe or if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Fever
  • Inability to keep food down for several days
  • Inability to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloody stools
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Painful or unusually frequent urination
  • The pain occurs during pregnancy
  • The abdomen is tender to the touch
  • The pain is the result of an injury to the abdomen in the previous days
  • The pain lasts for several days

These symptoms can be an indication of an internal problem that requires treatment as soon as possible.

How Is Abdominal Pain Treated?

Because there are so many potential causes of abdominal pain, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination, discuss with you the type of symptoms you are experiencing, and ask you several related questions about the pain you are feeling. Once an initial evaluation has been completed, your doctor may have you undergo some tests to help him or her diagnose your pain. These may include stool or urine tests, barium swallows or enemas, an endoscopy, x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan.

Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. This can range from medications for inflammation, GERD or ulcers, to antibiotics for infections, to changes in personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages. In some cases such as appendicitis and hernia, surgery is necessary.

The prognosis for abdominal pain depends on the cause and the promptness of medical care and diagnosis.