Abdominal pain, commonly called as stomachache is the pain that occurs between the chest and pelvic regions. Inflammation or diseases that affect the organs in the abdomen can cause abdominal pain.
Major organs located in the abdomen include:
• Intestines (small and large)
• appendix (a part of the large intestine)
Causes of abdominal pain?
The main causes of abdominal pain are:
• Abnormal growths
• Obstruction (blockage)
• Intestinal disorders.
Other common causes of abdominal pain include:
• Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
• Acid reflux (when stomach contents leak backward into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms)
Diseases that affect the digestive system can also cause chronic abdominal pain.
The most common are:
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• Irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon (a disorder that causes abdominal pain, cramping, and changes in bowel movements)
• Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease)
• Lactose intolerance (the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products)
Causes of severe abdominal pain include:
• Organ rupture or near-rupture (such as a burst appendix, or appendicitis)
• gallbladder stones (known as gallstones)
• Kidney stones
• Kidney infection
When to see the doctor
Mild abdominal pain may go away without treatment. However, in some cases, abdominal pain may warrant a trip to the doctor.
Call 911 if your abdominal pain is severe and associated with trauma (from an accident or injury) or pressure or pain in your chest.
You should seek immediate medical care if the pain is so severe that you can’t sit still or need to curl into a ball to get comfortable, or if you have any of the following:
• bloody stools
• high fever (greater than 101°F)
• vomiting up blood (called hematemesis)
• persistent nausea or vomiting
• yellowing of the skin or eyes
• swelling or severe tenderness of the abdomen
• difficulty breathing
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• abdominal pain that lasts longer than 24 hours
• prolonged constipation
• a burning sensation when you urinate
• loss of appetite
• unexplained weight loss
Call your doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and you experience abdominal pain.
How is the cause of abdominal pain diagnosed?
The cause of abdominal pain can be diagnosed through a series of tests. Imaging tests, such as MRI scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays, are used to view organs, tissues, and other structures in the abdomen in detail. These tests can help diagnose tumors, fractures, ruptures, and inflammation.
Other tests include:
• colonoscopy (to look inside the colon and intestines)
• endoscopy (to detect inflammation and abnormalities in the esophagus and stomach)
• upper GI (a special X-ray test that uses contrast dye to check for the presence of growths, ulcers, inflammation, blockages, and other abnormalities in the stomach)
Blood, urine, and stool samples may also be collected to look for evidence of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections.
How can I prevent abdominal pain?
Not all forms of abdominal pain are preventable. However, you can minimize the risk of developing abdominal pain by doing the following:
• Eat a healthy diet.
• Drink water frequently.
• Exercise regularly.
• Eat smaller meals.
If you have an intestinal disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, follow the diet your doctor has given you to minimize discomfort. If you have GERD, don’t eat within two hours of bedtime.
Lying down too soon after eating may cause heartburn and abdominal pain. Try waiting at least two hours after eating before lying down.