Abdominal Pain: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Abdominal pain is a symptom, not an illness in and of itself. Instead, it can indicate a wide variety of problems, from something as pedestrian as indigestion to more serious issues, such as an ulcer. If you have occasional stomach discomfort or abdominal pain, it’s probably not something to worry about. However, if your abdominal pain is severe or debilitating, or it recurs often, you should seek the care of a doctor, so you can rule out potentially serious causes.

Abdominal Pain Causes

You can experience abdominal pain due to quite a few causes, so it is important to pay attention to your other symptoms to determine if it is necessary for you to visit a doctor. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Stomach flu
  • Acid reflux
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Indigestion
  • Appendicitis
  • PMS
  • Endometriosis
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Bacterial infection
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Impacted bowel
  • Food poisoning

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of causes of abdominal pain, which is why it’s important to tell your doctor about other symptoms you may be experiencing. This can help your physician make a more accurate diagnosis.

Abdominal Pain Symptoms

Abdominal pain is itself a symptom, but it may express itself in different ways. For example, indigestion may feel like it’s located in your stomach, while acid reflux, otherwise known as heartburn, can be felt in the chest or throat. Problems with the ovaries or uterus in women may produce pain that appears in the lower abdomen as opposed to the stomach region. Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, chills, and other symptoms often go hand in hand with some types of abdominal pain.

Abdominal Pain Diagnosis

You may find that your abdominal pain goes away on its own if you simply wait it out. That is certainly true for causes such as indigestion and less severe cases of the stomach flu, so you may not even need to get a diagnosis from your doctor. However, if your symptoms are debilitating or persistent, it’s important to see a medical professional as soon as possible. Your doctor might perform a physical examination, and depending on your other symptoms, he or she may order certain tests like Abdominal X ray, Abdominal CT scan, stool tests. It’s important to listen to your doctor’s recommendations and comply with any testing he or she orders so you can receive an accurate diagnosis.

Abdominal Pain Treatment

Of course, depending on the cause of your abdominal pain, you will have different treatment options available to you. These treatments can range from an increased water intake and bedrest to certain medications or even surgery. After you get a diagnosis from a medical professional, ask your doctor about your treatment options so you can make the best decision for you or your loved one’s health.

Abdominal Pain Prognosis

Most cases of abdominal pain have a very favorable prognosis, as many causes of the issue are not serious. However, your prognosis depends on your specific diagnosis. For example, you have an extremely high likelihood of recovery if you are otherwise healthy and develop the stomach flu, but the prognosis for late-stage ovarian cancer may not be as favorable. Ask your doctor about your specific diagnosis for more information.


American Gastroenterological Association