Abdominal pain is pain in the stomach or intestinal area. Everyone has this pain from time to time. In many cases it goes away on its own. But abdominal pain can sometimes be due to a serious problem, such as appendicitis. So it's important to know when to seek help.
Causes of Abdominal Pain
There are many possible causes of abdominal pain. Common causes in adults include:
- Constipation, diarrhea, or gas
- GERD (movement of stomach acid into the esophagus)
- Peptic ulcer (a sore in the lining of the stomach or small intestine)
- Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas
- Gallstones or kidney stones
- Hernia (bulging of an internal organ through a muscle or other tissue)
- Urinary tract infections
- In women, menstrual cramps, fibroids, or endometriosis of the uterus
Diagnosing the Cause of Abdominal Pain
Your healthcare provider will examine you to help find the cause of your pain. If needed, tests will be ordered. Because abdominal pain has so many possible causes, it can be hard to diagnose. Giving details about your pain can help. Be ready to tell your healthcare provider where and when you feel the pain and what makes it better or worse. Also mention whether you have other symptoms such as fever, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, or changes in bathroom habits.
Treating Abdominal Pain
Certain causes of pain, such as appendicitis or a bowel obstruction, need emergency treatment. Other problems can be treated with rest, fluids, or medications. Your healthcare provider can give you specific instructions for treatment or self-care based on the cause of your pain.
If you are have vomiting or diarrhea, sip water or other clear fluids. When you are ready to eat solid foods again, start with small amounts of easy-to-digest foods, such as applesauce, toast, or crackers.
When to Call the Doctor
Call 911 or go to the hospital right away if you:
- Can't pass stool and are vomiting
- Are vomiting blood
- Also have chest, neck, or shoulder pain
- Have pain in your shoulder blades with nausea
- Have sudden, excruciating abdominal pain
- Have new pain unlike any you have felt before
- Have a belly that is rigid, hard, and tender to touch
Call your doctor if you have:
- Pain for more than 5 days
- Bloating for more than 2 days
- Diarrhea for more than 5 days
- Fever of 101°F or higher
- Pain that continues to worsen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Continued lack of appetite
- Blood in the stool
How to Prevent Abdominal Pain
Here are some tips to help prevent abdominal pain:
- Eat smaller amounts of food at one time.
- Avoid greasy, fried, or other high-fat foods.
- Avoid foods that give you gas.
- Exercise regularly.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
To help prevent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD):
- Quit smoking.
- Lose excess weight.
- Finish eating at least 2 hours before you go to bed or lie down.
- Elevate the head of your bed.