Abdominal Pain

What is an abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain is what you usually call stomach ache. It occurs between regions of the chest and pelvis and it can manifest in different forms i.e. dull, sharp, achy, crampy, intermittent etc. It is triggered easily by infections of organs located within the abdominal region. These infections will naturally give rise to inflammations. You might want to know these organs that are located in the abdominal region. They are: the stomach, small and large intestine, gallbladder, appendix, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and the liver.


Abdominal pain

Photo Credit: Advance ER


What causes abdominal pain?

They include;

  1. Abnormal Growths
  2. Intestinal infections or disorders
  3. Organ rupture or near-rupture of the (appendicitis)
  4. Blood infections
  5. Stomach flu
  6. Gallbladder stones
  7. Acid reflux
  8. Obstruction
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Inflammation
  11. Nausea and vomiting
  12. Infections in the throat
  13. Constipation
  14. Stress
  15. Crohn’s disease
  16. Irritable bowel syndrome: It is also called spastic colon. It is a disorder that induces abdominal pain, cramping, and even causes bowel movement changes.
  17. Lactose intolerance: This is the inability to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and its products.
  18. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  19. Kidney stones and infections


Types of abdominal pain

Abdominal pain can be described as localized, colicky or cramp-like.

Localized pain: It is a restrictive pain i.e. it is limited to a specific abdominal area. Its common cause is a stomach ulcer. A stomach ulcer is an open sore on the stomach’s inner lining.

Colicky pain: it is a sudden muscle-spasm like pain that typifies a severe condition e.g. gallstones, kidney stones. It is a very severe pain.

Cramp-like pain: it is usually associated with flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea or even bloating. Women can experience this kind of pain during menstruation, miscarriage, or complications in their reproductive organs. It is an on and off pain that can disappear without a single treatment.


Location of pain within the abdomen

The location of pain within the abdomen is a pointer to its cause.

Diffuse abdominal pain

Pains spread throughout the abdomen.

Likely causes include; traumatic injury, appendicitis, urinary tract infection, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, flu etc.

Lower abdominal pain

Pain is focused in the lower abdominal part.

Likely causes include; appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, miscarriage, ovarian cysts, dysmenorrhea, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, fibroids etc.

Upper abdominal pain

Likely causes include; pneumonia, hepatitis, gallstones, heart attack etc.

Central abdominal pain

Likely causes include; gastroenteritis, uremia, injury, appendicitis etc.

Lower left abdominal pain

Likely causes include; ovarian cysts, cancer, appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, kidney infection etc.

Upper left abdominal pain

Likely causes include; fecal impaction (that is, hardened stool that cannot be really eliminated), injury, heart attack, enlarged spleen, cancer, kidney infection etc.

Lower right abdominal pain

Likely causes include; appendicitis, cancer, hernia, flu, kidney infection etc.

Upper right abdominal pain

Likely causes; pneumonia, injury, hepatitis, appendicitis etc.


When you should see a doctor

This is of real importance if the pain is not a mild one. Should it be associated with any of the following outlined instances, please seek medical help immediately. Such cases include;

  1. When you have recurring chest pains.
  2. When you have sustained injury or a trauma from an accident.
  3. When your stools are blood-stained or simply bloody.
  4. When your body temperature is greater than 101°F.
  5. When you experience persistent nausea or vomiting.
  6. When your skin and eyes are yellowish (Jaundice).
  7. When you experience difficulty in breathing.
  8. When you are vomiting blood.
  9. When you experience severe tenderness or swelling of your abdomen.
  10. When you experience abdominal pain lasting longer than 24 hours.
  11. When you are expecting prolonged constipation.
  12. When your urination comes with burning sensations.
  13. When you have lost your appetite.
  14. When you are losing weight unexplainably.
  15. When as a pregnant or nursing mother, you are having persistent abdominal pain.


How the cause of an abdominal pain can be diagnosed

Diagnosis of abdominal pain is usually preceded by a doctor’s physical examination.

A physical examination involves mildly running the hands across the abdomen. This is an attempt to check for swelling and tenderness. This examination coupled with the location of the pain in the abdomen and how severe it is will inform further investigation.

Imaging tests

They are used to see in details, abdominal tissues, organs, and other abdominal structures in order to diagnose ruptures, blockage, fractures, tumors, and inflammation.

Examples are;

  1. MRI scans
  2. Ultrasound
  3. X-rays, including upper GI.  Upper GI is a special X-ray test that employs the use of a contrast dye to diagnose whether a blockage, growth, inflammation or ulcer etc. is present in the abdominal region.

Other tests

  1. Blood tests
  2. Urinalysis
  3. Fecal analysis


How you can prevent abdominal pain

Not all forms of the pain are preventable. However, you can minimize the risk of developing abdominal pain by doing the following;

  1. Eat healthy and small meals.
  2. Drink plenty of water frequently.
  3. Exercise as often as possible
  4. Be strict with whatever diet your doctor recommends for you.
  5. Avoid lying down immediately after eating a meal. Doing this can prevent you from having a heartburn. You can wait for some two or three hours to sleep after a meal.


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