Abdominal pain, as the name suggests it is the pain or discomfort in your abdominal region, the region between your chest and groin. Abdominal pain is so common that almost every one of us may experience it at some point of time in our lives. Abdominal pain is not a condition or disease by itself, rather is a symptom of many of the gastrointestinal (GI) conditions in any of the abdominal organs including end of the oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, the appendix, kidneys and spleen. Pain may even start from your chest or pelvic area.
Severity of pain is not a parameter to assess the severity of the condition. We may experience severe or intolerable pain even for mild conditions such as bloating, cramps or viral gastroenteritis or we may have no pain/mild pain even in cases of serious conditions such as colon cancer or early stages of appendicitis. Therefore do not neglect your abdominal pain and immediately seek the medical intervention.
Abdominal pain may be described as generalised when it is present in more than half portion of your stomach and is because of a viral infection, indigestion or gas. More severe pain may be caused because of intestinal blockage. Pain will be localised to one area of your stomach if it is because of problem in one of your abdominal organs. Cramps or spasm like pain are likely to occur because of gas or bloating and is often followed by diarrhoea. Another type of pain described as colicky pain starts and ends suddenly and is more severe. This type of belly pain occurs when there is a kidney stone or a gall stone.
Some of the medical conditions that may cause abdominal pain include:
- Bowel obstruction
- Inflammation of the gallbladder with or without gallstones
- Chronic constipation
- Food allergy, food poisoning or viral gastroenteritis
- Heartburn, indigestion or reflux disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Kidney stones
- Lactose intolerance
- Lack of enough blood supply to the gut
- GI tumours or cancers
- Urinary tract infections
In cases of mild abdominal pain, sipping on water or clear fluids may help. Also, it is better to avoid solid foods for the first few hours and then eat small quantity of soft foods such as rice. Antacids may provide relief if the pain starts soon after meals. Your doctor will check for the cause of your abdominal pain from medical history and physical examination. During physical examination, your doctor will find out whether the pain is localised or spread out and also watch for signs of inflammation (peritonitis). Based on the diagnosis, appropriate treatment will be recommended.
Often, abdominal pain can be prevented by changing your food habits, such as:
- Avoiding high fat foods
- Drinking more water and fluids
- Eating frequent small meals
- Avoiding foods likely to produce gas
- Eating a balanced diet, high in fibre
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables