Abdominal pain is a common health problem. In fact, it’s the second most common reason for doctor visits. Stomach pain can occur when you have:
- Stomach ulcers
- Kidney stones
It could also be from constipation or viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections in your stomach or intestines.
Know Your Abdomen
The main organs located in the abdomen are:
- Intestines (small and large)
What Causes Abdominal Pain?
Toward the right side of your abdomen, near the iliac crest (the part where your hip and back meet), is a collection of nerves. This can make it feel like you’re experiencing pain in that area—even if nothing is wrong there.
The next most common cause for abdominal pain is abdominal muscle strain. This is when the muscles in your stomach get pulled or strained from either overuse or a sudden injury.
In some cases, doctors call this an abdominal wall hernia. This means you have a weakness in your abdomen (often on the right side), and it gets pushed out, causing pain.
Infections in the throat, blood, and intestines can cause bacteria to enter your digestive pipe. This may result in pain in your abdomen and can also cause diarrhea or constipation (which can also cause their own similar pain). Additionally, cramps related to menstruation are a significant source of pain in the lower abdomen and also can cause pelvic pain.
The last thing that could be giving you abdominal pain is acute appendicitis, which is when your appendix becomes inflamed or infected and can’t function properly. If left unchecked, an inflamed appendix can burst and lead to peritonitis, an infection that can cause a high fever as well as vomiting or a loss of appetite. Peritonitis can be fatal if it’s not treated.
Diseases that affect digestion can also lead to chronic abdominal pain. Some common ones are irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), spastic colon, crohn’s disease, and lactose intolerance.
The symptoms of abdominal pain can indicate many different medical issues, so it’s essential to consult your doctor to narrow down the source of the pain. If you have any bleeding or other symptoms like fever, vomiting, or uncontrollable diarrhea, then visit an emergency room as soon as possible.
Types of Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can be categorized as cramp-like, localized, or colicky.
Cramp-like pain is usually caused by gas pain in the stomach. In females, this pain can be caused by menstruation or reproductive complications.
Localized pain affects a small area and may be caused by constipation, diarrhea, gas pressure building up in the stomach, gallstones, or spasms from an enlarged appendix.
Colicky pains are usually due to indigestion but may also be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can also be caused by severe cases of kidney stones or gallstones and might feel like a painful muscle spasm.
What is Causing Your Abdominal Pain?
Different symptoms can point to different causes of pain, so it’s helpful to know what your body is telling you before you visit a doctor. The following will help you understand the different common locations of abdominal pain and provide advice on what can be done to treat them.
Pain throughout the abdomen may indicate:
- Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix)
- Crohn’s disease
- Pulled muscle
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Urinary tract infection
Pain in the lower abdomen may indicate:
- Intestinal obstruction
Upper abdominal pain can be due to:
- Indigestion and gas
- Heart attack
- Liver inflammation
Pain in the center of the abdomen might be from:
Lower left abdominal pain may be caused by:
- Crohn’s disease
- Kidney infection
- Ovarian cysts
- Menstrual cramps
Upper left abdominal pain is sometimes caused by:
- Enlarged spleen
- Hardened stool
- Kidney infection
- Heart attack
Causes of lower right abdominal pain include:
- Kidney stone
Upper right abdominal pain may be from:
- Liver abscess
When To Go To the ER for Abdominal Pain
If these symptoms are milder and you have a history of stomach problems, indigestion, or constipation, then it is likely just gas. If you are experiencing mild abdominal pain that goes away after drinking water and eating food with lots of fiber (such as fresh fruits/vegetables), this is also probably not an emergency.
If your abdominal pain persists for more than 12 hours or worsens (as described below), it is recommended that you either visit a 24-hour emergency care facility, call 911, or visit an urgent care center.
If you have abdominal pain that lasts longer than 24 hours, prolonged constipation, nausea, vomiting, fever, or loss of appetite, you need immediate medical attention. If you are in unbearable pain and have any of the following symptoms:
- High fever
- Bloody stool
- Vomiting blood
- Yellow eyes or skin
- Breathing issues
If you are confused about where to go in case of such an emergency, Frisco ER & Urgent Care is here to help you.
How to Diagnose Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can be caused by many different things. However, there are a few symptoms that should ring warning bells for more serious causes of abdominal discomfort.
Doctors can diagnose the cause with a series of tests. They will ask you questions about how it feels, where and when it started, what makes the pain feel better or worse. Physical examinations are performed, including gently pressing on various areas to check for swelling or tenderness.
Your doctor may also take blood samples as well as urine for testing. Imaging tests like MRI scans, CT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays are used to view organs to diagnose tumors, ruptures, and fractures before they become life-threatening conditions.
Other tests for abdominal pain include colonoscopy, endoscopy, and upper GI tests to detect abnormalities, inflammation, ulcers, etc.
How to Avoid Abdominal Pain?
You can’t avoid all forms of abdominal pain, but by following these steps, you will reduce your risk:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Eat a balanced diet with fiber and vegetables
- Avoid foods that may cause digestive issues
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight if necessary
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce stress through meditation
- Practice deep-breathing exercises
- Limit alcohol intake
- Keep your medical information up to date.
Make sure to follow any special diet suggested by your nutritionist if you have been recommended to do so.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, consult your doctor. If the pain is persistent and does not respond to medication, seek urgent medical care.