What Is Abdominal Pain?
Abdominal pain refers to pain that occurs between the chest and the pelvis. While the type of discomfort can range from cramping, aching, or a sharp pain, abdominal pain is usually not a cause for alarm.
However, inflammation or diseases that affect the organs in the abdomen may cause abdominal pain. These organs in the abdomen may include the stomach, appendix, liver, gallbladder, small and large intestines, kidneys, spleen and pancreas.
Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections that originate in the stomach or intestinal region may also lead to abdominal pain.
What Causes Abdominal Pain?
Due to its location, abdominal pain can be caused by several conditions. These conditions usually signify infection, abnormal growths, inflammation, obstruction, and even intestinal disorders within the abdominal region.
Common causes of abdominal pain may include:
- Acid reflux
- Menstrual cramps
Persistent stomach or abdominal pain may also indicate signs of something more serious. Conditions such as GERD can lead to chronic abdominal pain. At the same time, other gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease have also been observed to cause severe abdominal pain.
Other causes of severe abdominal pain may include:
- Kidney Infection
- Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix)
This common condition is an infection of the appendix. It can cause pain at the lower right side of the abdomen. Treatment of appendicitis is done with intravenous antibiotics and surgery for the removal of the appendix.
Gallbladder diseases refer to conditions that can affect your gallbladder. One of the primary causes of gallbladder diseases is inflammation due to irritation of the gallbladder walls caused by blockages along the bile ducts.
Stomach ulcers, also known as peptic ulcers, are painful open sores in the lining of the stomach. Gastric ulcers develop on the inner lining of your stomach while duodenal ulcers develop on the inside of the upper part of your small intestine. They occur when the thick layer of mucus which protects your stomach from digestive enzymes is reduced as this enables the digestive acids to destroy the tissues lining your stomach.
When Is It Necessary to Consult a Doctor for Abdominal Pain?
Most abdominal pain may go away with no treatment required. However, persistent abdominal pain or severe pain may require immediate medical attention.
You are advised to seek immediate medical attention if the source of the abdominal pain is associated with a recent accident or injury, which could be a sign of structural or organ damage within the body.
You are also advised to seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Blood in stools
- Fever of more than 38.5 degrees
- Coughing of blood
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (signifying signs of jaundice)
- Swelling or severe tenderness of the abdominal region
How Can the Cause of Abdominal Pain Be Diagnosed?
Diagnosing abdominal pain can be tricky as it can be related to multiple conditions. For our doctor to accurately diagnose the condition, you may need to undergo a series of tests.
Firstly, our doctor will conduct a physical examination to determine the region of the pain. This may include applying pressure to gently press on the various areas of the abdomen to localise the pain region and check for tenderness and swelling.
Following the examination, our doctor will also note the severity of the pain and its location within the abdomen to recommend the tests to be conducted.
Our doctor may first recommend imaging tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan to view the structure and organs within the abdomen. This can help your doctor identify signs of large tumours or inflammation present in the organs.
Other tests that may be recommended include:
- Colonoscopy (to check for abnormalities within the colon and large intestine)
- Gastroscopy (to detect inflammation and irregularities in the oesophagus and stomach)
Samples such as blood or stool may also be taken to investigate for possible signs of bacterial, parasitic, or viral infections.
How Can Abdominal Pain Be Prevented?
While not all cases of abdominal pain can be prevented, it is possible to lower the chances of developing pain symptoms if you can adhere to the following habits, which include:
- Consuming a balanced diet
- Staying hydrated and drinking water regularly
- Maintaining an active lifestyle and exercise frequently
- Avoid over-consumption of food
Our doctor may advise a specialised diet to reduce the frequency of discomfort for patients afflicted with conditions such as Crohn’s disease. Similarly, for patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), they may be advised to avoid consuming large meals and avoid eating 2 hours before bedtime.
Lying down right after a meal may also lead to heartburn and abdominal pain. You are advised to wait at least 2 hours after consuming food before lying down.
Schedule a consult with our doctor Dr Ganesh Ramalingam
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