Generalized abdominal pain is felt in more than half of the belly between the chest and the groin. There are three types of abdominal pain including:
- Localized pain – which is felt in only one area of the stomach
- Cramp-like – that results from gas and bloating and usually is not serious
- Colicky – which comes in waves and begins and ends suddenly. Pain is often severe.
Typically, abdominal pain is caused by viruses, indigestion or gas. If the pain is more severe it may be caused by other illnesses. The abdomen is full of organs including the small and large intestines, female organs, spleen, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, and stomach.
Less serious causes may include:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Allergies or Lactose intolerance
- food poisoning
- stomach flu
Other, more serious causes include:
- bowel blockage
- gallbladder issues
- kidney stones
- Ulcers and Crohn’s Disease
Sometimes pain is due to a problem elsewhere in the abdomen such as, menstrual cramps, endometriosis, urinary infection, and even muscle strain. If the pain lasts more than a week or longer, and does not improve within 24 – 48 hours, medical treatment with your healthcare provider should be sought. When more serious symptoms are present then 911 should be called.
Serious symptoms include (but not limited to):
- constipation and vomiting
- vomiting blood or having bloody stools
- chest, neck and shoulder pain
- tenderness in the abdomen
- abdomen is rigid and hard to touch
- recent abdominal injury
- difficulty breathing
- severe pain
- yellowish tint to skin
- weight loss
Seek medical attention if the pain is so severe that you cannot sit still, movement increases the pain, and you can’t find a comfortable position to rest. Avoid over – the – counter medicines like Advil because they can cause additional irritation.
Diagnosis, whether done by your provider or other emergency personnel, begins with a history and a physical. These are done so the doctor can develop a plan for treatment and determine what the possible cause might be and if the pain is injury related.
The doctor will ask about the characteristics of the pain if there were any recent injuries, and when the onset of pain began. Depending on the cause a variety of tests may be used to help diagnose the cause of the abdominal pain.
Diagnostic testing may include:
- An ultrasound to check for fluid and need for a paracentesis
- stool sample to check for Dif. Or parasitic infection
- bloodwork like CBC and WBC to determine if there is anemia or an infection
- CT scan with contrast to see the internal organs
- Colonoscopy to check for bowel blockage
Lifestyle changes and prevention are important to avoid future events of abdominal pain. This includes nutritious meals, plenty of water, and taking medications as prescribed. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. The sooner treatment starts the better the chances of avoiding long-term damage or the need for surgery.