Abdominal Pain: Causes, Types, Diagnosis & Treatment
What is abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain is pain or discomfort that originates from organs within the abdominal cavity or the belly area. Major organs in the abdominal area are the stomach, large and small intestines, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, appendix, and pancreas. Any inflammation of these organs can cause abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is also called stomach ache, tummy ache, and bellyache. The pain can range in intensity from mild or dull pain to severe acute pain. The pain can be continuous or intermittent.
A short episode of pain is called acute, which starts over a few hours or days and may come with other symptoms. When the abdominal pain lasts longer for three months or more, it’s called chronic pain. When the pain worsens over time and mostly comes with other symptoms, it’s called progressive pain.
Almost everybody experiences abdominal discomfort or pain at some point in their lives. The pain can be caused by a variety of conditions which are most of the time not serious. However, sometimes it can be a sign of a serious illness that needs medical attention.
Moreover, the intensity of the pain does not always reflect the gravity of the condition causing the pain. For instance, even mild pain can be an early sign of a serious condition. Therefore, it is pivotal to consult healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat the conditions.
Types of abdominal pain
Abdominal pain can be described in other ways, such as:
• Generalized pain
This type of pain is felt in more than half of the belly. This is associated with stomach virus, indigestion, or gas. In the case of severe pain, it can be associated with intestinal blockages.
• Localized pain
This type of pain is limited to one area of the belly. Problems in a particular organ, such as the appendix, gallbladder, or stomach often cause this. Stomach ulcers or open sores on the inner lining of the stomach are the majority causes of this type of pain.
• Cramp-like pain
This type of pain is not serious most of the time. It is likely caused by gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or flatulence. Women may experience this pain during menstruation, miscarriage, or reproductive complications. This pain is intermittent and can disappear on its own without any treatment.
• Colicky pain
This type of pain comes in waves which happens and ends like a severe muscle spasm. It is a symptom of more severe conditions, such as gallstones or kidney stones.
Abdominal pain causes
There are various causes of abdominal pain as it can occur not only from the belly but also from nearby areas like the chest and pelvis. Some of the main causes are infection, abnormal growths, inflammation, obstruction, and intestinal disorders.
Some of the common causes of abdominal pain include:
Abdominal problems can cause abdominal pain, such as:
- Food poisoning
- Food allergies
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon
- Crohn’s disease which is an inflammatory bowel disease
- Stomach flu or gastroenteritis
- Ulcers or peptic ulcer disease
- Lactose intolerance or the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk
Pelvic problems cause pain in the lower abdominal pain. Common causes of pelvic pain are:
- Menstrual cramps
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Urinary tract infections
- Crohn’s disease
- Kidney infection
- Ovarian cysts
Chest problems cause pain in the upper abdominal pain. Common causes of chest pain or upper abdominal pain are:
- Pulmonary embolism or blood clots in the lungs
- Heart attack
- Enlarged spleen
- Fecal impaction or hardened stool that can’t be excreted
- Kidney infection
- Hepatitis or liver inflammation
When to see a doctor
Mild abdominal pain can disappear without any medical intervention. However, you need to seek medical intervention immediately in case of experience severe abdominal pain or the following symptoms:
- Nausea, fever, or vomiting for a prolonged period
- Bloody stools.
- Vomiting blood.
- The abdomen is swollen or tender to the touch.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Persistent pain that lasts for several days.
- Paling or yellowing of the skin or eyes
- The pain occurs during pregnancy.
Abdominal pain diagnosis
Various tests can help the doctor determine the cause of abdominal pain. The doctor will first do a thorough physical examination to check for tenderness and swelling by pressing on various parts of the abdomen. The doctor will also inquire about the symptoms that the patient experienced. The doctor will then suggest tests to be administered.
These tests include:
- Imaging tests, such as MRI scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays can help diagnose tumors, fractures, and inflammation.
- Endoscopy helps in detecting inflammation in the esophagus and stomach.
- Upper GI helps detect the presence of growths, ulcers, inflammation, blockages, and other abnormalities in the stomach.
- Colonoscopy helps to view the inside of the colon and intestines
- Blood, urine, and stool samples can be collected to detect any bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections.
Abdominal pain treatments
Based on the cause of the abdominal pain, the doctor will decide a treatment plan. Common treatments for abdominal pain include:
- Inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or ulcers medications.
- Antibiotics for infections.
- Local or spinal injections of numbing agents or corticosteroids.
- Changes in lifestyle and diet.
However, in case of severe abdominal pain, the doctor may recommend surgery.
Abdominal pain preventions
Not all forms of abdominal pain can indeed be prevented. However, the following steps can help reduce the risk of developing abdominal pain:
- Eating a healthy diet or nutritious diet is crucial for overall health.
- Increase the intake of water or drink water frequently.
- Engaging in physical activity or exercising regularly.
- Consuming smaller meals.
If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms or in case of severe abdominal pain, make an appointment with our doctors here at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre. We have some of the best gastroenterologists who can help you in the best possible ways.
Meet the specialists at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad
Dr. Prof. (Brig.) Atul Kumar Sood, VSM is one of the most reputed gastroenterologists in Delhi NCR. Currently, he is a Director & HOD, at the Department of Gastroenterology at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre. He is lauded for his work in chronic liver disease, pancreatitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). His expertise lies in diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy, ERCP, EUS, and capsule endoscopy.
Dr. Manjeet Bhati is a consultant in the Department of Gastroenterology at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre. He specializes in all kinds of ailments and diseases in the stomach and the gastrointestinal tract. He is a specialist when it comes to Endoscopy, ERCP, EUS, and spiral enteroscopy.