What is abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain is discomfort anywhere in your belly — from ribs to pelvis. It’s often called ‘stomach’ pain or a ‘stomach’ ache, although the pain can be coming from any number of internal organs besides your stomach.
A brief episode of pain is called acute, which means ‘of recent onset.’ When you have abdominal pain for three months or longer, it’s considered a chronic or ongoing problem, although this time period is not exact. For example, acute appendicitis is nearly always an acute condition, in contrast to irritable bowel syndrome, which may result in chronic cramping that can span years or longer.
Abdominal pain comes in many forms, and may range from cramps that come and go to sudden, stabbing pains to constant, dull abdominal aching. Even mild pain can be an early sign of a serious condition, which is why healthcare providers often monitor these patients for changes in their conditions.
Keep in mind that abdominal pain is a subjective symptom that cannot be reliably measured by healthcare professionals. The intensity of the pain is what you say that it
What are the most common causes of abdominal pain?
Because the abdomen is home to multiple organs, a wide range of problems might cause pain. The discomfort can also originate from nearby areas like the chest and pelvis. Causes of abdominal pain include:
- Food poisoning.
- Food allergies.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- Inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease).
- Kidney stones.
- Stomach flu (gastroenteritis).
- Ulcers (peptic ulcer disease).
- Menstrual cramps.
- Ovarian cysts.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Urinary tract infections.
- Blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
- Heart attack.
How is stomach pain in children different?
Up to 15% of children between 5 and 16 years have ongoing or on-again, off-again abdominal pain. Oftentimes, when children get a tummy ache, it’s from constipation. Other common causes of abdominal pain in children include:
- Milk allergy (lactose intolerance).
- Strep throat.
How is abdominal pain treated?
Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. Options include:
- Medications for inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux disease or ulcers.
- Antibiotics for infection.
- Changes in personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages.
- Local or spinal injections of numbing agents or corticosteroids by pain management physicians.
In more severe cases like appendicitis and hernia, surgery is necessary.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Which 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:
- Nausea, fever, or the inability to keep food down for several days.
- Bloody stools.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Vomiting blood.
- The pain occurs during pregnancy.
- The abdomen is tender to the touch.
- Pain is the result of an injury to the abdomen in the previous days.
- Pain lasts for several days.
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