Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain, stomachache, tummy ache, bellyache or gut ache is being experienced by everyone from time to time. Abdominal pain can be mild or severe. Abdominal pain can be short-lived (acute) or occur over weeks, months or years (chronic).

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If stomach pain is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, see your doctor. Symptoms may include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Fever
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Continuous nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Skin that appears yellow
  • Severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen

Causes of stomach pain

Abdominal pain has many potential causes such as indigestion, gas pains, or a pulled muscle. These symptoms usually aren’t serious. Other conditions may require urgent medical attention.

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While the location and pattern of abdominal pain can provide important clues, its time course is particularly useful when determining its cause.

Acute abdominal pain develops, and often resolves, over a few hours to a few days. Chronic abdominal pain may be recurrent. This type of pain may be present for weeks to months, or even years. Some conditions cause progressive pain, which steadily deteriorates with time.

Acute

The various conditions that cause acute abdominal pain are usually accompanied by other symptoms and develop over hours to days. Causes can range from minor conditions that resolve without any treatment to serious medical conditions, including:

  • Appendicitis
  • Cystitis (inflammation of bladder)
  • Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation)
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Diverticulitis
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Intussusception (in children)
  • Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
  • Cholangitis (bile duct inflammation)
  • Fecal impaction
  • Injury
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary infarction (loss of blood flow to the lungs)
  • Viral gastroenterititis (Stomach flu)
  • Heart attack
  • Liver abscess (pus-filled pocket in the liver)
  • Mesenteric thrombosis (blood clot in a vein carrying blood away from your intestines)
  • Ruptured spleen
  • Salpingitis (inflammation of the fallopian tubes)
  • Shingles (herpes zoster infection)
  • Spleen infection
  • Splenic abscess (pus-filled pocket in the spleen)
  • Torn colon

Chronic (intermittent, or episodic)

Symptoms may range from mild to severe, coming and going but not necessarily deteriorating over time. Conditions that may cause chronic abdominal pain include:

Progressive

Abdominal pain that steadily worsens over time, often accompanied by the development of other symptoms, is usually serious. Causes of progressive abdominal pain include:

  • Liver cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lead poisoning
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • Tubo-ovarian abscess (pus-filled pocket involving a fallopian tube and an ovary)
  • Uremia (buildup of waste products in your blood)

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have abdominal pain so severe that you can’t move or sit without causing more pain. Seek help if your abdominal pain is severe and is associated with:

  • Trauma, such as an accident or injury
  • Pressure or pain in your chest

Seek immediate medical attention

Have someone drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if you have:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Skin that appears yellow
  • Severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen

You can find ways to temporary ease your pain by eating smaller meals if your pain is accompanied by indigestion. Avoid taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) because they can cause stomach irritation that may worsen.

 

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