Everybody experiences stomach discomfort at some point in their lives. Oftentimes, the causes of abdominal pain are not life threatening. Diagnosis and treatment are often uncomplicated. But sometimes the source of pain can be a serious condition. It is essential to know which symptoms can be easily managed at home and which require medical treatment.
Frequent Causes of Abdominal Pain
Pain can show up in many ways, you may experience cramps, a dull stomachache or sharp pain. The underlying problem may result in upper abdominal pain, lower left abdominal pain or right abdominal pain, or the discomfort may travel. There are many causes of abdominal pain, including:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Food allergies
- Stomach virus
- Menstrual discomfort
- Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS
- Food poisoning
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD
- Excessive gas
- Lactose intolerance
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Gallstones or kidney stones
- Crohn’s disease
- Urinary tract infection
When Abdominal Pain is a Sign of a Serious Medical Condition
If you experience frequent or severe abdominal pain along with any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
- Vomiting for more than two days
- Constipation, especially if it is accompanied by vomiting
- Painful or frequent urination
- Abdomen is painful or tender to the touch
- Pain due to trauma to the abdomen
- Pain lasting more than several hours
Seek emergency medical care if you are:
- Vomiting blood
- Passing bloody or black tarry stools
- Have a hard time breathing
- Experiencing pain during pregnancy
Since there are a plethora of reasons for abdominal pain, a comprehensive exam is needed to determine the root cause. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and ask a series of questions that may include the following:
- Describe the type of pain you are feeling? Is it localized pain or do you feel it throughout your abdomen?
- Are you experiencing upper abdominal pain? Is it right abdominal pain or lower left abdominal pain?
- Are you experiencing stabbing, or severe pain, is it a dull ache?
- When are you feeling this pain? Is it constant? Does it occurearly in the day or at night? If the pain is sporadic, how long does it last when it comes? Do you feel it after eating specific foods or after indulging in alcohol? Do you feel the pain during menstruation?
- How long have you been suffering from this pain?
- Is there a chance of pregnancy?
- Have you experienced a recent injury?
After a thorough evaluation, your doctor may order a series of tests to look further into the cause of your abdominal pain. An x-ray, CT scan, endoscopy, ultrasound or some type or enema may be performed. You may also need to supply a stool, blood or urine sample.