Abdominal Pain

According to Medicinenet abdominal pain can be classified by onset, type, and location: the onset of pain can be either sudden or gradual; the type of pain can be either constant or crampy; the location can be either localized or diffuse. Using a thermometer, check anyone suffering from abdominal pain for a fever.

Question: What are minor causes of abdominal pain?

Indigestion is the most common cause of abdominal distress in both adults and children. Indigestion results from eating too much or eating unsuitable food. It is often accompanied by heartburn, belching, and a sensation of fullness or nausea. In most cases, indigestion ceases gradually and within a few hours. Antacids may help. Indigestion does not trigger a fever.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestinal tract. It is another common cause of abdominal pain. It can be caused by food poisoning, food allergies, or infections, for example, “stomach flu.” The pain is crampy, diffuse, and may come on suddenly. There is nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the cause is infectious, there may be a fever.

Constipation is a difficulty in emptying the bowels. The pain is often sudden and may be either constant or crampy. Although the pain is usually diffuse, it can be localized to the left side of the abdomen. Constipation does not cause a fever. The pain is relieved by either passing gas and/or stool.

Irritable colon, which is also known as spastic colon or mucous colitis, is a disturbance of large intestine function. The condition is made worse by periods of emotional stress. The pain is crampy. There can be either constipation, diarrhea, or mucous stools, as well as a loss of appetite. A fever is not a symptom.

Menstrual cramps or painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea) are experienced by many women. Pain at ovulation or mittelschmerz (middle pain) occurs midway between periods. It can be severe; it is localized to the right or to the left lower abdomen. There is no vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. The pain usually passes in a day or two.

Question: What are the more serious causes of abdominal pain?

Sudden sharp pain that comes in waves (a condition known medically as colic) may be accompanied by vomiting, sweating, and the need to double up. Colic can be caused by several potentially serious disorders, such as intestinal obstruction; stones in the gall bladder system (biliary colic); or stones in the kidney system (renal colic).

Continuous pain, together with slight fever, tenderness of the abdomen when touched, and sometimes vomiting may be caused by inflammation of the appendix (appendicitis), colon (colitis), colon pouches (diverticulitis), or gall bladder (cholecystitis). An inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis) causes continuous pain, vomiting, and tenderness to the touch. An inflamed fallopian tube (salpingitis) causes continuous pain, lower abdominal pain, fever, and tenderness to the touch.

Continuous pain that comes on suddenly, producing tenderness of the abdomen when touched, may be caused by a perforated ulcer, an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, or a leaking abdominal, aortic aneurysm. An abdominal aneurysm may also cause pain in the back.

Question: What other disorders include abdominal pain as a symptom?

Abdominal pain with backache and frequent, painful passing of urine suggests inflammation of the kidney (pyelonephritis) or of the bladder (cystitis). There may also be a fever. Recurrent abdominal pain may be caused by a peptic ulcer. Abdominal pain is also a symptom of inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) or an inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).

Question: Are children especially subject to abdominal pain?

No. But a child with infection of the middle ear (otitis media) or inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis) may complain of a stomachache. There may be two reasons for this: a child’s non-abdominal illness may make him or her feel queasy or nauseated; also, a child’s vocabulary may be limited to ache or pain associated in the past with abdominal pain or a stomachache.