Abdominal Pain Causes & Conditions
Nearly everyone experiences abdominal pain of one kind or another at some point. Some abdominal pain causes and conditions are more critical than others. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, it’s important to note whether the pain is mild or intense, dull or sharp, or achy or cramp-like. These are important symptoms to share with your healthcare provider at Balcones Pain Consultants when you seek treatment.
Gastrointestinal Causes of Abdominal Pain
Simple gastrointestinal conditions such as constipation, gas, diarrhea and indigestion can cause mild to moderate abdominal pain and discomfort. Food poisoning and stomach viruses can both cause acute stomach cramping, along with vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms of food poisoning and a stomach virus can be difficult to distinguish from one another, as both tend to develop suddenly and usually do not last longer than two to three days. (Note that though stomach viruses are often called “stomach flu,” these illnesses are unrelated to the influenza virus.)
Most types of abdominal pain resulting from the conditions above are not serious and can often be treated at home. Dehydration, however, is a serious complication linked to vomiting or diarrhea; medical attention is necessary if dehydration develops.
Some people who experience chronic gastrointestinal distress and abdominal pain are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Lactose intolerance and food allergies can cause symptoms similar to IBS, including gas, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, bloating and general abdominal discomfort. A key difference among these conditions relates to the onset of symptoms. While IBS symptoms tend to flare regardless of diet, symptoms of lactose intolerance or a food allergy come on quickly, typically within 30 minutes of consuming a particular type of food or drink.
Menstrual Cramps and Endometriosis
Menstrual cramps are another common cause of abdominal pain. For most women, this type of pain manifests as mild to moderate cramping in the lower abdomen or pelvis. Some women also feel cramping in their lower backs. Mild to moderate nausea and diarrhea can coincide with menstrual cramps for some women, adding to abdominal discomfort. Particularly severe menstrual cramping can be caused by endometriosis, a chronic condition caused by the development of uterine tissue outside the uterus.
Other Abdominal Pain Causes and Conditions
Still somewhat common but more serious causes of abdominal pain include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of these conditions can vary, and both conditions can cycle through active periods and periods of remission. Both conditions tend to cause abdominal tenderness, pain and cramping usually associated with diarrhea.
Appendicitis is another relatively common, yet serious cause of abdominal pain that requires prompt medical attention. Most common in people who are between the ages of 10 and 30, appendicitis causes pain in the lower right abdomen that may range in severity from dull to sharp. This condition can also cause dull or sharp pain anywhere in the abdomen or rectum, along with gas, constipation and abdominal bloating. For this reason, it can be difficult to self-diagnose at home, making an assessment by a medical professional even more critical.
Kidney stones can cause sharp pain that moves in waves through the side, back and lower abdomen, accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Similarly, gallstones typically cause pain in the upper abdomen and back, also accompanied by nausea and vomiting, along with bloating, gas, indigestion and other digestive complaints. Both conditions can be quite critical and require diagnosis by a medical professional.
When to Seek Help For Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can be alarming when it strikes, especially if you experience symptoms which may indicate a serious condition. If your abdominal pain is severe or accompanied by fever, constipation and vomiting, bloody stools or marked tenderness, contact your health care provider promptly for a timely diagnosis. Balcones Pain Consultants can play an important and caring role in diagnosing, treating and managing abdominal pain, whether caused by chronic or acute conditions.