Abdominal pain is pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. This is often referred to as the stomach region or belly.
Almost everyone has pain in the abdomen at some point. Most of the time, it is not serious. How bad your pain is does not always reflect the seriousness of the condition causing the pain.
For example, you might have very bad abdominal pain if you have gas or stomach cramps due to viral gastroenteritis.
However, fatal conditions, such as colon cancer or early appendicitis, may only cause mild pain or no pain.
Other ways to describe pain in your abdomen include:
- Generalized pain This means that you feel it in more than half of your belly. This type of pain is more typical for a stomach virus, indigestion, or gas. If the pain becomes more severe, it may be caused by a blockage of the intestines.
- Localized pain This is pain found in only one area of your belly. It is more likely to be a sign of a problem in an organ, such as the appendix, gallbladder, or stomach.
- Cramp like pain This type of pain is not serious most of the time. It is likely to be due to gas and bloating, and is often followed by diarrhea. More worrisome signs include pain that occurs more often, lasts more than 24 hours, or occurs with a fever.
- Colicky pain This type of pain comes in waves. It very often starts and ends suddenly, and is often severe. Kidney stones and gallstones are common causes of this type of belly pain.
Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain. The key is to know when you need to get medical care right away. Sometimes, you may only need to call a health care provider if your symptoms continue.
Less serious causes of abdominal pain include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Food allergies or intolerance (such as lactose intolerance)
- Food poisoning
- Stomach flu
Other possible causes include:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm (bulging and weakening of the major artery in the body)
- Bowel blockage or obstruction
- Cancer of the stomach, colon (large bowel), and other organs
- Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) with or without gallstones
- Decreased blood supply to the intestines (ischemic bowel)
- Diverticulitis (inflammation and infection of the colon)
- Heartburn, indigestion, or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Kidney stones
- Pancreatitis (swelling or infection of the pancreas)
Sometimes, abdominal pain may occur due to a problem somewhere else in your body, such as your chest or pelvic area. For example, you may have abdominal pain if you have:
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- Severe menstrual cramps
- Muscle strain
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Tubal (ectopic) pregnancy
- Ruptured ovarian cyst
- Urinary tract infections
You can try the following home care steps to ease mild abdominal pain:
- Sip water or other clear fluids. You may have sports drinks in small amounts. People with diabetes must check their blood sugar often and adjust their medicines as needed.
- Avoid solid food for the first few hours.
- If you have been vomiting, wait 6 hours, and then eat small amounts of mild foods such as rice, applesauce, or crackers. Avoid dairy products.
- If the pain is high up in your abdomen and occurs after meals, antacids may help, especially if you feel heartburn or indigestion. Avoid citrus, high-fat foods, fried or greasy foods, tomato products, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages.
- DO NOT take any medicine without talking to your provider.
These additional steps may help prevent some types of abdominal pain:
- Drink plenty of water each day.
- Eat small meals more frequently.
- Exercise regularly.
- Limit foods that produce gas.
- Make sure that your meals are well-balanced and high in fiber. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Call your primary care physician if you have:
- Abdominal discomfort that lasts 1 week or longer
- Abdominal pain that does not improve in 24 to 48 hours, or becomes more severe and frequent and occurs with nausea and vomiting
- Bloating that persists for more than 2 days
- Burning sensation when you urinate or frequent urination
- Diarrhea for more than 5 days
- Fever, over 100°F (37.7°C) for adults or 100.4°F (38°C) for children, with pain
- Prolonged poor appetite
- Prolonged vaginal bleeding
- Unexplained weight loss
Stomach pain; Pain - abdomen; Belly ache; Abdominal cramps; Bellyache; Stomachache
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