Abdominal Pain

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What is abdominal pain?

Patients often have difficulty describing abdominal pain. Sometimes described as lower abdominal pain, upper abdominal pain, upper stomach pain, stomach pain, etc. - abdominal pain can present as any form of discomfort between the chest and the pelvis. It can seem vague and hard to define. Oftentimes, abdominal pain can be a minor issue but it is important to pay attention to your body and the signs that it is sending you. There are several conditions or reasons as to why you may be experiencing stomach pain. If you have had frequent off-and-on stomach pain, it may be time to visit a gastroenterologist. You can find a gastroenterologist near you by contacting GI Alliance.

What causes abdominal pain?

Stomach or abdominal pain can be caused due to several less serious issues. These commonly include:

  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia)
  • A potential stomach virus: This could be a stomach flu or other virus.
  • Food poisoning: A foodborne illness due to toxins in food from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
  • Food allergies (such as lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance): Common food allergies include nuts, milk, fish, eggs, and shellfish.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: Pain commonly presents in the lower abdomen but can be anywhere in the abdomen. Pain may worsen soon after eating.

Other potentially more serious conditions that cause abdominal pain include:

  • Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix. This could feel like a dull pain in the abdomen that moves to the lower right abdomen and grows sharper.
  • Decreased blood supply to the intestines (intestinal ischemia): This can be due to a blocked blood vessel and could affect intestinal function.
  • Kidney stones (nephrolithiasis): Symptoms manifest as severe pain in the back and side from the lower abdomen to the groin.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas. Pain is felt from the upper abdomen, radiating to the back.
  • Bowel blockage or obstruction: Prevention of digested material from passing through the bowel.
  • Cancer of the stomach: Symptoms could include pain and unusual “fullness” in the upper abdomen.
  • Colon cancer: Symptoms could include severe and long-lasting abdominal pain, and/or change in bowel habits.
  • Cholecystitis: Inflammation of the gallbladder that presents as severe pain in the upper right or center of the abdomen.
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease): This occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Symptoms include frequent heartburn.
  • Crohn’s disease: An inflammatory disease of the intestines that results in abdominal pain and frequent diarrhea.
  • Ulcerative colitis: Inflammatory bowel disease that can result in abdominal and rectal cramping and pain.
  • Ulcers: Sores in the lining of the stomach that can result in abdominal pain.
  • Diverticulitis: Infection/inflammation of the colon. This can result in bowel obstruction and abdominal swelling.

At times, abdominal pain may be localized to the lower portion of the abdominal area. Some of the most common causes of lower abdominal pain include:

  • Diverticulitis: Inflammation or infection of the walls of the intestines.
  • Gas: Feels like pressure in your abdomen and includes burping and flatulence.
  • Lactose intolerance: The inability to fully digest lactose found in dairy.
  • Celiac disease (celiac sprue): Triggered response of the body to gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye.
  • IBD (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis): A term describing any chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
  • Indigestion: Pain from indigestion in the lower abdomen is rare and due to the buildup of acid following eating.
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome): Common disorder of the large intestine.
  • Constipation: The inability and/or difficulty to pass stool.
  • Hernia: When another body part or organ pushes into the abdominal wall.
  • Bowel obstruction: The prevention of digested material from passing through the bowel.
  • Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix. This could feel like a dull pain in the abdomen that moves to the lower right abdomen and grows sharper.
  • Flu (stomach flu): Infection of the intestines. Could be characterized by cramping, nausea, and fever.

When should I go to the hospital for abdominal pain?

If you are experiencing severe unrelenting abdominal pain accompanied by any of the following conditions emergency care may be necessary. Abdominal pain should be treated by an emergency physician immediately if:

  • Pain extends from your stomach to your back
  • Your stomach is very tender to the touch
  • Your abdominal pain is accompanied by a fever
  • Bloody urine or bloody stool
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Unable to eat without vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Irregular heartbeat

The best rule of thumb is to not take any risks. If your stomach pain is frequent and perhaps not extreme, meeting with your nearest gastroenterologist may be necessary. Our experienced team at GI Alliance can help. Blood in your stool should never be ignored. If you have blood in your stool please visit the GI Alliance location nearest you.

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Treatment of abdominal pain

Due to the variety of abdominal causes, the most efficient and effective way to treat abdominal pain is to seek a diagnosis from a gastroenterologist. The nation's largest physician-led network of gastroenterologists, GI Alliance, aims to bring you the best in patient-centric care. As the experts in the gastrointestinal tract, our GI Alliance doctors can perform many diagnostic tests and offer treatment for a wide variety of conditions that cause abdominal pain. Schedule a consultation today with your nearest gastroenterologist by contacting GI Alliance.

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