Abdominal pain is a ubiquitous experience that pretty much everyone will experience at some point in their their life. However, the amount of pain or discomfort that an individual experiences with abdominal pain can range dramatically from slightly uncomfortable to excruciating. Additionally, this type of pain can mean a lot of different things. Abdominal pain is most often just an innocuous part of being a human being, however, it can also be a symptom of another underlying condition or more serious illness. For this reason, understanding your abdominal pain and its source is an important part of living a healthy and happy life.
Types of Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain comes in a variety of different forms. It can range from stomach cramps to sharp pains, aches and soreness. The reason why abdominal pain and symptoms vary so widely is due to the fact that there are many different causes.
The human abdomen holds a number of different organs, including your stomach, liver, pancreas, small and large bowel and reproductive organs. There are also major blood vessels located within the abdomen. This makes the stomach a somewhat complex component of the body, particularly when it comes to pain.
Potential Causes of Abdominal Pain
One of the most common forms of abdominal pain stems from what’s known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This widespread disorder affects the large intestine (colon) and causes symptoms like stomach pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. For most people, IBS is a chronic condition and symptoms can often be controlled by managing diet, lifestyle and stress.
Another leading cause of abdominal pain is indigestion. By itself, indigestion is fairly harmless, albeit unpleasant. However, if it persists, it may need to be looked into. Indigestion can be a sign of an underlying problem, such as ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gallbladder disease.
Other common forms of abdominal pain include:
- Menstrual cramps
- Stomach virus
- Food poisoning
- Food allergies
Though rarer, abdominal pain may be an indicator of a more serious issue, such as appendicitis, gastrointestinal reflux diseases, a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, gallstones, pelvic inflammatory disease or ulcers.
Diagnosing Abdominal Pain
Paying attention to the signs and symptoms of your abdominal pain can help in identifying what may be the cause and if you need to seek medical attention.
These components include things like:
- How the pain begins
- The location of the pain
- The pattern of the pain
- The duration of the pain
If abdominal pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, this may be an indicator that immediate medical attention is required.
- Inability to keep food down
- Tender abdomen
- Vomiting blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain that lasts several days
In addition to a physical examination, there are a number of different diagnostic tests that can be done by your physician to determine the source of your stomach pain. Due to the wide array of potential causes, treatments for abdominal pain will likewise vary widely depending on the underlying cause of your symptoms.