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Abdominal pain

Overview of abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is a discomfort or pain felt anywhere in the abdomen between the chest and pelvis.

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The abdominal pain is commonly categorized as acute or chronic based on the duration or occurrence of the pain. Short occurring pain is termed as acute while pain that has been persisting for a long duration of time is referred to as chronic pain.1

Abdominal pain may arise due to a wide variety of causes. In most of the instances the abdominal pain may not be a serious issue of concern. However, you need immediate medical attention if: you have severe abdominal pain, the pain keeps recurring or if you have constant, mild to moderate pain over several days or weeks.

Signs and symptoms such as inflammation, bloody diarrhea or chest pain associated with abdominal pain may indicate some underlying abnormality that needs to be verified.1 Abdominal pain is more common among women when compared to men.2

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Causes of abdominal pain

Identifying or pointing at a particular factor as the causative factor is impossible in case of abdominal pain. It may arise due to a wide variety of reasons. It can however be said that abdominal pain commonly indicates the involvement of any of the organs present in or near by to the abdominal region.

Therefore any abnormality in the organs of digestion (such as the stomach, liver, intestine, pancreas, gall bladder, etc), appendix, kidneys or the spleen can result in abdominal pain.

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Some of the common conditions that can result in abdominal pain include:

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Diagnosis of abdominal pain

The diagnosis of abdominal pain is based on the comprehensive review of the signs and symptoms noted history of the condition, physical examination and laboratory investigations. Based on the signs and symptoms noted the doctors perform a physical examination to try and locate the source of the pain.

Following this, additional tests may be advised to identify or rule out the presence of some of the common causes of abdominal pain. Laboratory tests such as blood test, urine test, and stool tests are advised accordingly. Imaging studies such as endoscopy of upper gastrointestinal tract, ultrasonography of the abdomen, or X-rays of the abdomen are carried out for the diagnosis when considered necessary. Invasive tests such as laparoscopy may be used for diagnosing, and treating abdominal pain in some rare instances. 5

Treatment of abdominal pain

The treatment of stomach pain is mainly based on its underlying causes. Appropriate emergency measures are taken in case of severe pain or life-threatening conditions. Home care for mild to moderate types of abdominal pain is described below.

Home care measure such as sipping of water or other clear fluids, and avoiding consumption of solid for the first few hours after the pain has started is recommended. Consumption of mild food such as rice is recommended after a few hours if hunger is felt. Antacids and H2blockers such as ranitidine, famotidine are prescribed for individuals suffering from indigestion or heartburn.1

Other specific types of treatment are advised based on the causative factor and the duration of the abdominal pain. This may range from administration of medications to surgery. 4

Prevention of abdominal pain

Abdominal pain that results from faulty diet habits can be rectified by following a proper diet and avoiding fatty or greasy foods. Meal should be well balanced with high fibers. Avoid consuming large meals instead have small meals more frequently. The diet should include ample amount of fruits and vegetables. Following a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, avoiding alcohol consumption and smoking and losing weight (if you are overweight or obese) can also help in improving the symptoms. 3

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1. Mayoclinic.com. Abdominal pain. [updated: Dec. 2008; cited: November 2009].Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/abdominal-pain/MY00390.

2. Kay L, Jorgensen T, Jensen KH. Epidemiology of abdominal symptoms in a random population: Prevalence, incidence, and natural. European Journal of Epidemiology. 1994 10(5): 559-566.

3. Medline Plus. Abdominal pain.[updated : Oct 2009;cited : November 2009].Available at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003120.htm

4. Manterola C, Astudillo P, LosadaH, Pineda V, Sanhueza A, VialM. Analgesia in patients with acute abdominal pain.CochraneDatabase of SystematicReviews 2007, Issue 3. Art.No.CD005660.DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005660.pub2.

5. Navarro Fernández , Tárraga Lopez, Rodriguez Montes , Lopez Cara . Validity of tests performed to diagnose acute abdominal pain in patients admitted at an emergency department. Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2009; 101(9):610-618.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: March 21, 2016