What is abdominal pain?
Abdominal pain is pain felt anywhere between the chest and groin. It is often referred to as stomach pain or bellyache.
The abdomen is bounded by the lower margin of the ribs to the pelvic bone and flanks on each side.
Abdominal pain can come from conditions affecting a variety of organs.
Most people have experienced pain in the abdomen at one time or another. It is not usually caused by a serious medical problem.
What causes it?
Pain can originate from any of the large number of organs in the abdomen.
This includes the stomach, oesophagus, liver, gallbladder, small and large intestines, colon and pancreas.
Abdominal pain includes indigestion, heartburn and reflux. A stomach virus or gas may also be a cause.
Severe abdominal pain may be caused by a blockage of the intestines or may stem from other organs, such as the appendix, gallbladder or kidney. (Kidney stones and gallstones).
Appendicitis – an inflammation of the appendix – can cause severe abdominal pain.
The appendix is a small worm-like pouch attached to the large bowel.
Appendicitis can happen at any age, however most cases occur between 8 and 25 years of age. It is rarely seen in children aged under two years.
For young people, appendicitis is probably the most common cause of stomach pain requiring emergency surgery.
Stomach ulcers can also cause severe pain as well as blood vessel problems, such as an aortic aneurysm.
An ulcer is damage to the inner lining (the mucosa) of the stomach or the upper part of the intestine (duodenum). A bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, is the main cause of ulcers in this area.
Abdominal pain can be acute and sudden in onset, or the pain can be chronic and longstanding.
Cramp-like pain is usually not serious, and is more likely to be due to gas and bloating. It is often followed by diarrhea.
The exact cause of abdominal pain is often hard to pinpoint.
Sometimes minor and serious abdominal problems start with the same symptoms.
Causes largely depend on a patient’s sex and age.
The severity of the pain, its location, and other symptoms may help to determine the cause.
Fortunately, most abdominal problems are minor, and home treatment is all that is needed.
A visit to a physician or medical professional is usually needed when severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly or if pain persists over several hours or days.
There are several prescription and over the counter medications available to treat abdominal pain as well as a number of herbal medicines and natural treatments.
However, you should always seek medical advice if you experience persistent or severe abdominal pain.