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Major Abdominal Pain Causes and When to See a Doctor?

Woman having a medical exam with her doctor and consulting about her abdominal pain causes

Abdominal (Stomach) Pain: Causes and When to See a Doctor

Abdominal pain causes are often treatable using home remedies or over-the-counter medicines. However, sometimes, depending on the main cause, it can be difficult to treat the pain at home. In such cases, seeing a medical doctor for proper diagnosis and drug prescription is usually advisable.

So what are some of the major abdominal pain causes, and when is it necessary to see a doctor? Let’s delve into the details.

Abdominal Pain Causes

Abdominal or stomach pain can be felt in the upper, middle, lower, or sides of the stomach, depending on the cause. For instance, conditions affecting the stomach, spleen, and pancreas cause pain on the upper left side of the belly, while intestinal distress is usually in the middle and lower abdomen. Pain emanating from the appendix and kidneys is usually in the lower abdomen, and in women, menstrual cramping is typically felt in the lower abdomen.

The main causes of abdominal pain include:

Digestive Issues

Digestion-related issues are among the leading abdominal pain causes. Digestive issues often arise from such causes as taking a low roughage diet, fatty foods, side effects of certain medications, and dehydration. Indigestion is usually a dangerous condition, and it goes away on its own.

Inflammation

Gastrointestinal inflammation triggered by infections can cause abdominal pain. Inflammation usually arises from gastritis, a bacterial infection of the lining of the stomach or intestines. The pain is generally felt in the upper abdomen.

Female Reproductive Cycle

One of a woman’s four reproductive cycle phases is the monthly menses. It is usually accompanied by crampy pain in the lower abdomen. The pain can last throughout the period and can be mild or severe.

Severe period pain may be an indication of endometriosis and may affect normal daily activities.

Other common causes include the following:

  • Bacterial stomach infections
  • Indigestion
  • Lactose or gluten intolerance
  • Constipation,
  • Bloating
  • Food poisoning.

Some more severe causes of belly pain include stomach, pancreatic, or colon cancers, kidney conditions such as kidney stones, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, appendicitis, blocked bowels, and reproductive organ diseases among women. At first, these conditions may not be easily discovered, but as they advance and become severe, the symptoms become more apparent, and it gets easier to discern the underlying cause.

Types of Abdominal Pain

There are various types of abdominal pain, and the pain classification depends on the cause, area affected, and severity.

  1. Generalized abdominal pain: It’s usually felt over a large area of the belly and is caused by various factors, including bacterial or viral infections and indigestion. It can be mild or severe, depending on the underlying cause. Less serious reasons, such as indigestion, tend to produce mild generalized stomach pain, while extreme conditions, such as intestinal blockage, can cause severe abdominal pain.
  2. Localized abdominal pain: It is the opposite of generalized abdominal pain. It only affects a specific part of the belly, typically caused by a condition affecting a particular organ within the abdomen. Most of the time, it is caused by ulcers in the stomach, besides other abdominal pain causes.
  3. Colicky belly pain: This is the most severe and is caused by serious conditions like kidney stones or gallstones. It is characterized by sudden wavy spasms that come and go intermittently.
  4. Crampy pain: It is mostly associated with monthly periods among women and is usually not a cause for alarm unless accompanied by other severe symptoms like fever or persistence for more than twenty-four hours. However, menstrual cramps that last more than twenty-four hours should not be a cause for worry.

From a more general perspective, abdomen pain can also be classified according to the physical location within the body. It could be upper, lower, middle, correct, or left-side abdominal pain.

How Common is Stomach Pain? 

Stomach pain is a common condition everyone experiences at some point. It can affect anyone, both young and old. What differs from one individual to another is the cause, longevity, severity, and location of the pain.

What Does Abdominal Pain Location Tell You?

The part of the abdomen where the pain occurs is a sure way to tell which organ has been affected by the underlying condition. However, pain in a particular abdominal location may not point to a problem with the adjacent organ itself but rather a trigger from another body part.

Upper belly pain typically indicates a problem in the esophagus or stomach. Lower abdominal pain indicates a medical condition in the urinary bladder, kidneys, or appendix. In contrast, pain on the right side is usually a sign of liver or large intestine disease. Left-side pain is generally in the stomach, spleen, or pancreas.

What are the More Serious Causes of Abdominal Pain?

The more serious abdominal pain causes it may lead to chronic illness or death. Bowel blockage, colorectal cancer, appendicitis, and even liver infections can cause serious pain in the abdomen.

In the female reproductive system, severe pain can be caused by endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Massive explosions of stomach ulcers can also lead to severe pain in the upper abdomen. Also, trauma from injuries sustained in the stomach region due to accidents or surgical operations can cause severe pain that may necessitate medication.

When to Call the Doctor about Abdominal Pain

Most of the time, abdominal pain is mild and fades away in a few hours or days. However, if the pain is excessive and does not improve in one day, it is time to go and see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and medication. Any abdominal pain lasting more than a week, mild or not, should be taken seriously, and the case should be presented to a medical doctor for immediate action.

Another case that may necessitate attention by a doctor is when the pain arises from a serious injury or medical procedure such as surgery. Such pain could signal other severe circumstances like internal bleeding or developing wounds.

Conclusion

Abdominal pain, whether severe or mild, is usually a cause of concern for many people. It can cause discomfort and even indicate some health-endangering goings-on in the stomach region. As there are numerous effective home remedies for abdominal pain, it’s imperative to see a medical doctor if the condition does not improve within a reasonable time.

We have a team of highly qualified and experienced gastroenterologists operating over 40 practices within the State of New Jersey. Request an appointment with us today for specialized treatment for all your gastrointestinal health problems, or call us for emergency abdominal pain treatment and advice. Our medical services are affordable and available