Abdominal pain is one of the more common problems that may affect more than 90% of the population. The intensity of the pain may often scare us, but it is not necessarily due to something serious. However, lingering symptoms can indicate a chronic disease that should be treated.Sometimes, its intensity may seem pretty scary, but it does not necessarily mean that you are dealing with a serious health problem. However, oftentimes it indicates a chronic condition that you should treat.
Conditions such as continual bloating, frequent vomiting, diarrhea and blood in the stool, which persist for more than two weeks are signs that ask for immediate medical attention so that a more serious diagnosis is avoided.Abdominal pain can be any kind of discomfort felt between the chest and groin. Since this is an extensive area of the body, it is necessary to know the exact location of the pain so you can easier find the cause.
The evaluation of abdominal pain requires an understanding of the possible mechanisms responsible for pain, a broad differential of common causes, and recognition of typical patterns and clinical presentations. All patients do not have classic presentations.The map on the picture above will help you identify your pain.
If Patient is having abdominal pain associated with fever as well, evaluation and proper treatment should be consider as it is shown in the slide below.
What Symptoms of Abdominal Pain Are Cause for Concern?
If your abdominal pain is severe or recurrent or if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider as soon as possible:
- Inability to keep food down for more than 2 days
- Any signs of dehydration
- Inability to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting
- Painful or unusually frequent urination
- The abdomen is tender to the touch
- The pain is the result of an injury to the abdomen
- The pain lasts for more than a few hours
These symptoms can be an indication of an internal problem that requires treatment as soon as possible. Seek immediate medical care for abdominal pain if you:
- Vomit blood
- Have bloody or black tarry stools
- Have difficulty breathing
- Have pain occurring during pregnancy
Doctors determine the cause of abdominal pain by relying on:
- Characteristics of the pain
- Physical examination
- Exams and tests
- Surgery and endoscopy
See your GP if:
- the pain gets much worse in a short space of time
- the pain or bloating won’t go away or keeps coming back
- you have other symptoms like weight loss or vomiting
- there’s a change in how often you pee
- you have pain when you pee
- you have unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
- you bleed from your bottom
- your diarrhoea lasts longer than a few days
Call 999 (Emergency number) or go to A&E if you:
- have sudden, severe stomach pain
- have pain when you touch your stomach
- are vomiting blood or a ground coffee like substance
- have bloody or black, sticky poo
- have collapsed
- can’t breathe
- are unable to pee
- are diabetic and vomiting
What problems can cause pain in the Abdomen?
This list does not include all the possible causes of gut pain but some of the more common causes include the following.
Indigestion means different things to people. You might feel a discomfort in the top of your tummy (abdomen) or behind your breastbone. This happens usually after eating certain types of food. The foods might be fatty or very rich. You may feel like burping a lot or have a nasty acid taste coming into your mouth. It usually goes in a few hours. Most people will find relief from simple remedies they can buy at the chemist.
If you are older, or are known to have heart disease, indigestion-type pains that come on with exertion or stress are worrying. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell angina or a heart attack from indigestion. If you have pain that goes into your jaw or down your left arm, it might be angina. If it goes off quickly, try to see your GP to discuss it. If it doesn’t settle and you feel unwell, phone 999/112/911 for an ambulance.
Crampy pains across the abdomen after eating may be wind. Your abdomen may feel swollen or bloated. If you are able to go to the toilet and open your bowels or pass wind the pain usually goes. If not, a chemist may be able to recommend some medication to ease the pain.
Constipation is common. It means either going to the toilet less often than usual to empty the bowels or passing hard or painful stools (faeces). Sometimes crampy pains occur in the lower abdomen. You may also feel bloated and sick if you have severe constipation. See separate leaflets called Constipation in Adults and Constipation in Children for more information.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common gut disorder. The cause is not known. Symptoms can be quite variable and include abdominal pain, bloating, and sometimes bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go. There is no cure for IBS but symptoms can often be eased with treatment. See separate leaflet called Irritable Bowel Syndrome for more details.
Appendicitis means inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small pouch that comes off the gut wall. Appendicitis is common. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain and being sick (vomiting) that gradually get worse over 6-24 hours. The pain usually starts in the middle of the abdomen but over time seems to move towards the right hip. Some people have less typical symptoms. See separate leaflet called Appendicitis for more details.
Pain that starts in your back and seems to travel around the side of your abdomen to your groin, may be a kidney stone. The pain is severe and comes and goes. This is called renal colic. The pain goes when the stone is passed. Sometimes the stone cannot be passed and you may need to have the stone broken into small pieces at the local hospital. There may be blood in your urine too. See separate leaflet called Kidney Stones for more details.
This is a common cause of aching pain that is low down in the abdomen in women. It is much less common in men. Along with pain, you may feel sick and sweaty. There may be a sharp stinging when you pass urine and there may be blood in the urine. See separate leaflets called Cystitis in Women, Urine Infection in Men and Urine Infection in Children for more details.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
PID is an infection of the womb and/or Fallopian tubes. Treatment is with antibiotics. Pain in the lower abdomen (pelvic area) is the most common symptom. It can range from mild to severe. Pain during sex can also occur. Women commonly also have vaginal discharge with PID. See separate leaflet called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease for more details.
Many people do not know they have gallstones. Symptoms include severe pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. This is called biliary colic. The pain is usually worst to the right-hand side, just below the ribs. The pain eases and goes if the gallstone is pushed out into the bile duct (and then usually out into the gut) or if it falls back into the gallbladder.
Pain from biliary colic can last for just a few minutes but, more commonly, lasts for several hours. A severe pain may only happen once in your lifetime or it may flare up from time to time. Sometimes less severe but niggly pains occur now and then, particularly after a fatty meal when the gallbladder contracts most. See separate leaflet called Gallstones for more details.
Most women have some pain during periods. The pain is often mild but, for some women, the pain is severe enough to affect day-to-day activities. The pain can be so severe that they are unable to go to school or work. Periods tend to become less painful as you get older. An anti-inflammatory painkiller often eases the pain. See separate leaflet called Period Pain (Dysmenorrhoea) for more details.
When we think of food poisoning, we usually think of the typical gastroenteritis – an infection of the gut (intestines) – that usually causes diarrhoea with or without vomiting. Crampy pains in your tummy (abdomen) are common. Pains may ease for a while each time you pass some diarrhoea. See separate leaflets called Food Poisoning in Adults and Food Poisoning in Children for more details.
Stomach and duodenal ulcers
The pain from an ulcer may come and go. It is in the top part of your gut but may also feel like it goes through into your back. The pain usually comes at night and wakes you up. Food may make it better in some types of ulcer or may make it worse. See separate leaflets called Stomach (Gastric) Ulcer and Duodenal Ulcer for more details
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Crohn’s disease is a condition which causes inflammation in the gut. The disease flares up from time to time. Symptoms vary, depending on the part of the gut affected and the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and feeling unwell. See separate leaflet called Crohn’s Disease for more details.
The list does not include every condition that causes abdominal pain. These are just some of the most common causes. People often worry that gut pain is because of cancer. Most often the most common types of cancer in the gut, such as bowel (colonic) cancer, will have other symptoms. These may include weight loss, blood loss or a change in bowel habit.
Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) may cause pain in the upper abdomen (just below your breastbone). The pain is often described as a burning feeling. There are usually other symptoms as well, such as feeling sick (nausea), vomiting and feeling full after eating. See the separate leaflet called Gastritis for more details.