Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older
The cause of abdominal problems can be hard to pinpoint. Sometimes minor and serious abdominal problems start with the same symptoms. Fortunately, most abdominal problems are minor, and home treatment is all that is needed.
Many times the exact Reference cause of abdominal pain is hard to find. The severity of your pain, its Reference location Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, and other symptoms you have may help determine what is causing the pain.
- Generalized pain occurs in half of the abdomen or more. Generalized pain can occur with many different illnesses and will usually go away without medical treatment. Reference Indigestion Opens New Window and the Reference stomach flu Opens New Window are common problems that can cause generalized pain. Home treatment may help relieve some of the discomfort. Generalized mild pain or crampy pain that becomes more severe over several hours may be a symptom of a blockage of the intestines (Reference bowel obstruction Opens New Window).
- Localized pain is located in one area of the abdomen. Localized pain that comes on suddenly and gets worse is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. The pain of Reference appendicitis Opens New Window may start as generalized pain, but it often moves (localizes) to one area of the abdomen. The pain from gallbladder disease or Reference peptic ulcer disease Opens New Window often starts in one area of the abdomen and stays in that same location. Localized pain that gradually becomes more severe may be a symptom of inflammation of an abdominal organ.
- Cramping is a type of pain that comes and goes (intermittent) or that changes in position or severity. Cramping is rarely serious if it is relieved by passing gas or a stool. Many women have cramping pain with their menstrual periods. Generalized cramping pain is usually not a cause for concern unless it gets worse, lasts for longer than 24 hours, or localizes. Cramping that starts suddenly with diarrhea or other minor health problems can be quite painful but is usually not serious.
Occasionally, severe pain that comes on suddenly may be a symptom of a rupture of the stomach or intestines (Reference perforation), Reference torsion of the testicle Opens New Window or Reference ovary Opens New Window, a Reference kidney stone Opens New Window, Reference gallbladder disease Opens New Window, or blood vessel problems, such as an Reference aortic aneurysm Opens New Window. The pain caused by appendicitis or gallbladder disease may increase when you move or cough. Pain that increases with movement or coughing and does not appear to be caused by strained muscles is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. A visit to a doctor is usually needed when severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly, or when new and different mild pain slowly becomes more severe over several hours or days.
After a minor Reference abdominal injury, pain, nausea, or vomiting may occur but often gets better in a few minutes. Pain and other symptoms that continue, increase, or develop following an injury may mean an abdominal organ has been damaged.
Many Reference medicines can cause abdominal pain. Some medicines also cause side effects, such as constipation, that can make abdominal pain worse.
Specific abdominal symptoms have been linked with Reference ovarian cancer Opens New Window. These symptoms include abdominal or Reference pelvic pain Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, increased abdominal size or bloating, and trouble eating or feeling full quickly. If you have had these symptoms 12 or more times each month over the past 12 months, talk with your doctor.
Reference Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference November 16, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Reference H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine