Abdominal pain is a common symptom with short term, non serious disorders as well as more serious disorders. Common causes may include gastroenteritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Other causes could be appendicitis or diverticulitis. Determining the cause can be difficult, because abdominal pain can be associated with many diseases.
Causes of Abdominal Pain
Common causes of abdominal pain include gastroenteritis and irritable bowel syndrome. In a third of cases the exact cause is unclear. On average, only around 10% of people have a more serious underlying condition such as appendicitis or diverticulitis. It’s not always easy to determine the cause because more than one disease can cause abdominal pain.
Abdominal pain is pain that originates between the chest and the pelvis. The pain can be cramp-like, achy, dull, or sharp. It is often called a stomachache.
Abdominal bloating will occur when the abdomen fills with air or gas. This may cause the area to appear bloated. The abdomen may feel hard or tight when touching. This may cause discomfort and pain.
A number of conditions can lead to lower abdominal pain and bloating. Examples include:
- An ovarian cyst, where a woman has a fluid-filled sac on her ovary or ovaries.
- A urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Consuming foods known to cause gas in some people, such as milk products that contain lactose, broccoli, carbonated beverages, onion, and beans. When the gas moves through the digestive tract, pain can result.
- Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes intestinal inflammation
- Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) or viral and/or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel. This is typically accompanied by diarrhea.
- Intestinal obstruction where the intestine is blocked and digested material cannot move through the digestive tract. This is an emergency medical condition.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
When to Seek Medical Help for Abdominal Pain
If abdominal pain and bloating is accompanied by vomiting, vomiting blood, blood in the stool, loss of consciousness, seek medical help. If you have not had a bowel movement in three days, seek immediate help. This could indicate an intestinal obstruction.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms in addition to abdominal pain:
- Bloating and/or abdominal pain after every meal
- Pain with intercourse
- Painful bowel movements
Treatments will address the underlying condition, such as antibiotics for infections. If an intestinal obstruction is the cause, your medical provider may prescribe medications to encourage intestinal movement. Surgery can be required in severe and rare instances. You can take steps at home by drinking plenty of water or other clear fluids. You should avoid pain medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and anti-inflammatory medications until you know your pain is not due to abdominal conditions such as an intestinal obstruction. Try to avoid solid foods for a few hours and try bland, soft foods like rice or applesauce.