Causes of Abdominal Pain

Woman with a stomach ache

Abdominal pain is extremely common – everyone experiences it – but it’s also one of the most common symptoms for a variety of illnesses or conditions, which can make the exact cause difficult to diagnose. The types of pain vary, as does the severity, so identifying potential causes can be tricky, but looking at other symptoms is a good way to narrow it down and help you treat it.

Sometimes the pain is from a minor, easily-identifiable source such as gas, heartburn, constipation, overeating, or a pulled muscle. In these cases, the pain is often manageable and home treatment with over-the-counter medication, water, and rest are usually sufficient.

Some people may have abdominal pain as the result of a food allergy or intolerance; lactose intolerance or celiac disease are two of the most common. The signs of these – bloating, painful gas, indigestion, and cramping – occur after eating a food the body can’t tolerate. For some people, this means even a small amount will set off painful symptoms, while for others it only happens after eating a large amount. If you notice a reaction within 30 minutes to a few hours every time you eat a certain type of food, it may be an allergy.

Sudden, sharp pains in the navel that move to the right side of the abdomen may be a sign of appendicitis, in which the appendix becomes inflamed and can burst. Aside from this sharp, migrating pain, other symptoms include pain that worsens with movement or coughing, a low fever, bloating, and nausea. Appendicitis requires immediate medical attention.

Ongoing abdominal pain may be the result of a chronic illness. Women with endometriosis, in which uterine lining tissue grows outside the uterus, causes pain that usually occurs around the menstrual cycle but which may eventually occur regularly. Peptic ulcers, caused by bacteria or an imbalance of digestive fluids, are painful sores lining the stomach that can cause consistent, burning pain along with nausea and heartburn.

How do you decide when abdominal pain is serious enough to see a doctor? Severe pain that lasts several hours, or severe, sharp pains, are cause for concern. Other, serious symptoms like dehydration, painful urination, constipation combined with vomiting, a high fever, bloody stool, or vomiting that lasts more than two days are also reasons to call your doctor. You should also seek treatment if the area is tender to the touch, or you know the pain was caused by an injury (a blow, a fall) to the abdomen.


This entry was posted in Archives