Abdominal pain can come from a variety of causes. Fortunately, most abdominal pain is not serious, and can be treated at home. Exact causes of abdominal pain can be challenging to pinpoint, but severity of pain, location and other symptoms help doctors learn how to best treat your needs.
Generalized Abdominal Pain
Generalized pain happens with many different illnesses and usually goes away without specific medical treatment. Common problems that cause generalized pain are indigestion and upset stomach. Simple treatments may help relieve some of the discomfort. Mild pain or crampy generalized pain that grows more severe over several hours can be a symptom of intestinal blockage, which is also called bowel obstruction.
Localized Abdominal Pain
Localized pain is when there is discomfort in one area of the abdomen. This kind of pain typically comes on suddenly and gets worse, and is more likely to be symptomatic of a serious problem. Appendicitis often starts as generalized pain, but then moves (localizes) to one area of the abdomen. Gallbladder disease or peptic ulcer disease starts in one location of the abdomen and stays in that same area. Localized pain that gradually becomes more severe may be a symptom of organ inflammation. Most ypes of localized pain should be checked out by a doctor.
Cramping Abdominal Pain
Cramping comes and goes or changes in severity and position. If this type of pain is relieved by passing gas or a stool, then it is not serious. Many women experience cramping pain with menstrual periods. Sudden cramping with generalized pain is not typically a cause for concern unless it lasts for more than 24 hours, gets worse, or localizes. Cramping that starts suddenly with diarrhea or other minor health problems can be quite painful but is usually not serious.
Severe and Sudden Abdominal Pain
Severe pain that comes on suddenly may be a symptom of a rupture of the stomach or intestines (also known as a perforation). Other severe and sudden pains may be because of a kidney stone, gall bladder disease, twisting of the testicle or ovary (called torsion) or blood vessel problems like an aortic aneurysm. Pain that increases with movement or coughing and is not related to strained muscles is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. Visit the doctor when severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly, or when different and new mild pain slowly becomes increasingly severe over several hours or days.
Pain, nausea or vomiting can occur after a minor abdominal injury, but often gets better in a few minutes. If your pain and other symptoms continue, increase, or develop following an injury, it may mean that an abdominal organ has been damaged, and you need to see a doctor.
Be aware of the medicines you are taking, as many can cause abdominal pain. Some medicines also have constipation and other side effects that can make abdominal pain worse.
There are specific abdominal symptoms that have been linked to ovarian cancer. If you are female and experience abdominal or pelvic pain, bloating or increased abdominal size, have trouble eating or you feeling full quickly, and this occurs almost daily for more than two or three weeks, talk with your doctor.
What to Look For
You may need emergency care if you pass out or lose consciousness, pass maroon or very bloody stools, vomit blood or something that looks like coffee grounds, have new, severe belly pain.
Call the doctor immediately if your abdominal pain gets worse, if it becomes focused in one area of your belly, you experience abdominal pain with a new or higher fever, stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood. Call the doctor immediately if (you are female and) you have unexpected vaginal bleeding. See your doctor if you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection like painful urination, urinating often or blood in your urine.
Restore Health Urgent Care is open Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and ready to help you. No appointment is needed.