What Is Abdominal Pain?
What Organs Are In The Abdomen?
The abdominal area stretches from just under the rib cage to the pelvis. This area includes not only the stomach and intestines, but also the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and appendix. Male and female reproductive organs in the pelvic area are considered part of the abdominal area, too, and conditions affecting those organs can also cause abdominal pain.
Pain and discomfort in the abdomen often arise from inflammation, distention, or swelling of an organ, or problems with blood flow to an organ. But sometimes abdominal pain involves none of these. For example, the cause of irritable bowel syndrome isn’t well understood, but it seems to be connected with hypersensitivity to normal digestive activity, not to inflammation or infection.
What Are The Causes Of Abdominal Pain?
The cause of abdominal pain can be as simple as “something you ate” — a food allergy or toxin such as bacteria that cause gas, bloating and stomach cramps. Inflammation and infection can also cause pain in the abdominal area, as in appendicitis, pancreatitis, or the chronic condition Crohn’s disease. More seriously, abdominal pain can be a sign of cancer in the stomach, pancreas, liver, or other organs, especially if it’s accompanied by symptoms such as sudden weight loss and unexplained fevers.
Other typical causes of pain in the abdominal area include:
- Diverticulitis, an inflammation of the small intestine
- Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas
- Kidney stones
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease, characterized by heartburn and acid reflux
These and other general causes of abdominal pain can affect both sexes, but some kinds of pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic area are unique to men or women.
Abdominal Pain for Women
In addition to general abdominal issues, women can also experience abdominal pain related to conditions affecting the reproductive system, such as menstrual cramps, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, ectopic pregnancy, or cancer of the uterus or ovaries. These conditions can cause pain in the lower abdomen, as well as “referred pain” felt elsewhere in the abdominal area.
Abdominal Pain in Men
Men can also experience abdominal pain from conditions unique to their reproductive organs. Testicular problems such as torsion of testicular cancer can make pain felt in the abdominal area, and hernias can also pose a risk. An enlarged prostate can also contribute to abdominal pain when it causes urinary tract obstruction.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Abdominal Pain?
Pain in any of the 4 quadrants of the abdomen is the obvious sign. The type and severity of pain can vary depending on the differential diagnosis. For example, the pain felt with GERD presents differently than Cholecystitis. However pain is the most common sign.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Abdominal Pain?
Risk factors for abdominal pain include excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, fatty diet, genetics/family history, and a sedentary lifestyle.
How Is Abdominal Pain Diagnosed?
Because abdominal pain can have so many different causes, it can take time to diagnose. Our doctors will begin with a complete health history and physical examination. Other tests such as ultrasound, CT scans or other kinds of specialized imaging can also be done to identify the source of the problem. Blood tests can also help to diagnose some conditions, and in some cases, surgery might be needed for a final determination.
What Are The Possible Treatments For Abdominal Pain?
The treatments for abdominal pain are as varied as the causes. Some conditions can be treated with antacids, lifestyle modifications or medications for infection or inflammation, while others, like appendicitis, might require surgery. A complete diagnosis can sort out the causes of pain in this complex area of the body and put you on the road to recovery. Contact Medical Offices of Manhattan to schedule a consultation for your abdominal pain today.
Are There Preventative Steps Or Measures To Avoid Abdominal Pain?
- Eat smaller but more frequent meals. If you often suffer from indigestion, have five to six smaller meals a day, rather than three square meals.
- Eat on time and avoid skipping meals.
- Consume less irritating foods.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Quit smoking.
- Manage your stress.
- Avoid allergic triggers.
What Are The Risks If Abdominal Pain Is Left Untreated?
The most concerning condition regarding abdominal pain is small bowel obstruction (SBO)which can lead to life-threatening sepsis and necrosis. Surgical intervention is required immediately upon suspicion of SBO.
Other abdominal conditions like Crohn’s Disease can lead to an increased risk of bowel cancer, which is the 3rd most common cancer among both men and women.
Untreated GERD can also lead to Barrett’s esophagus which can also lead to cancer if not treated properly.
Conditions like pancreatitis left untreated can lead to life-threatening and uncontrollable internal bleeding which requires immediate surgical intervention.
Are There Other Related Conditions To Abdominal Pain?
As stated above, certain abdominal conditions can lead to an array of medical disorders like cancers, internal bleeding, and sepsis.
Abdominal pain consists of a broad spectrum of disorders that lead to numerous differential diagnosis. Pain is the most common sign and symptom but, depending on the way it presents itself, it may help narrow down the diagnosis. Treatment is almost always required via medical therapy or surgical intervention. Abdominal pain can be linked to disorders of the small bowel, pancreas, gallbladder, vasculature, liver, and large bowel.