Abdominal Pain Names
Stomach pain; Pain - abdomen; Belly ache; Abdominal cramps; Acute abdomen
Abdominal Pain Definition
Abdominal pain is pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. This is often referred to as the stomach region or belly.
Abdominal Pain Considerations
There are many organs in the abdomen. Pain in the abdomen can originate from any one of them, including:
However, the pain may originate from somewhere else -- like your chest or pelvic region. You may also have a generalized infection affecting many parts of your body, like the flu or strep throat.
The intensity of the pain does not always reflect the seriousness of the condition causing the pain. Severe abdominal pain can be from mild conditions, such as gas or the cramping of viral gastroenteritis. On the other hand, relatively mild pain or no pain may be present with life-threatening conditions, such as cancer of the colon or early appendicitis.
Abdominal Pain Causes
Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain. The key is to know when you must seek medical care right away. In many cases you can simply wait, use home care remedies, and call your doctor at a later time only if the symptoms persist.
Possible abdominal pain causes include:
When an inflamed organ in the abdomen ruptures or leaks fluid, you not only have excruciating pain, your abdomen will be very stiff (board-like) and you will likely have a fever. This occurs when you have peritonitis due to an infection spreading in the abdominal cavity from the ruptured organ, like the appendix. This is a medical emergency.
In infants, prolonged unexplained crying (often called "colic") may be caused by abdominal pain that may end with the passage of gas or stool. Colic is often worse in the evening. Cuddling and rocking the child may bring some relief.
Abdominal pain that occurs during menstruation may be from menstrual cramps or it may indicate a problem in a reproductive organ. This includes conditions such as endometriosis (when tissue from the uterus is displaced to somewhere else like the pelvic wall or ovaries), uterine fibroids (thick bands of muscular and fibrous tissue in the uterus), ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer (rare), or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) -- infection of the reproductive organs, usually from a sexually transmitted disease.
Abdominal pain may actually be caused by an organ in the chest, like the lungs (for example, pneumonia) or the heart (like a heart attack). Or, it may stem from a muscle strain in the abdominal muscles.
Cancer of the colon, stomach, or pancreas are serious but uncommon causes of abdominal pain.
Other more unusual causes of abdominal pain include a type of emotional upset called somatization disorder, reflected as physical discomfort (including recurrent abdominal pain). Strep throat in children can cause abdominal pain.
Abdominal Pain Home Care
For mild abdominal pains:
Call your health care provider if
Call 911 if you:
Call your doctor if you have:
What to expect at your health care provider's office
From your medical history and physical examination, your doctor will try to determine the cause of your abdominal pain. Knowing the location of pain and its time patten will help, as will the presence of other symptoms like fever, fatigue, general ill feeling, nausea, vomiting, or changes in stool.
During the physical examination, the doctor will test to see if the pain is localized to a single area (point tenderness) or whether it is diffuse. He or she will be checking to see if the pain is related to inflammation of the peritoneum (called peritonitis). If the health care provider finds evidence of peritonitis, the abdominal pain may be classified as an "acute abdomen", which may require surgery right away.
Your doctor may ask the following questions about your abdominal pain:
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
Abdominal Pain Prevention
For prevention of many types of abdominal pain:
For prevention of symptoms from heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease:
There are three body views (front, back and side) that may be helpful if you are uncertain of a body area. Many areas are referred to by both descriptive and technical names. For example, the back of the knee is called the popliteal fossa. However, areas like the "flank" may not have both names, so the location may be unclear.
The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.
The process of digesting food is accomplished by many organs in the body. Food is pushed by the esophagus into the stomach. The stomach mixes the food and begins the breakdown of proteins. The stomach propels the food then into the small intestine. The small intestine further digests food and begins the absorption of nutrients. Secretions from the pancreas in the small intestine help neutralize the acid in the intestine to provide a proper environment for the enzymes to function. Bile from the gallbladder and liver emulsify fat and enhance the absorption of fatty acids. The large intestine temporarily stores and concentrates the remainder until it is passed out as waste from the body.
Since the abdominal area contains many different organs it is divided in smaller areas. One division method, uses one median sagittal plane and one transverse plane that passes through the umbilicus at right angles. This method divides the abdomen into four quadrants. Medical personnel can easily refer to these quadrants when describing pain or injury regarding a victim.
The appendix is a small finger-shaped tube that branches off the first part of the large intestine. The appendix can become inflamed or infected causing pain in the lower right part of the abdomen.
Blood from the aorta reaches the kidneys so it can be filtered and cleaned. Among other functions, the kidneys remove toxins, metabolic waste, and excess ions from the blood which leaves the body in the form of urine.
American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Chronic Abdominal Pain. Chronic Abdominal Pain in Children. Pediatrics. 2005; 115(3): 812-815.
D'Agostino J. Common abdominal emergencies in children. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2002; 20(1): 139-153.
Updated by: Christian Stone, M.D., Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
[Articles from the MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.]
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