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Why Am I Getting Abdominal Pain?

by | Apr 1, 2021 | Resources

What is abdominal pain?

Pain in the stomach (abdomen) is common. Often, the pain is for a short period of time and will resolve with a change in lifestyle or without any treatment. However, there are some more serious causes of abdominal pain that you might need to consult a doctor.

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What causes abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain has many different causes, which can usually be differentiated through the type of symptoms you experience. This can include:

  • Indigestion – pain in the upper abdomen or behind the breastbone (usually after eating certain foods), persistent burping, or an acidic taste in the mouth
  • Bloating – a cramping abdominal pain following eating due to a build-up of wind in the stomach or bowel which usually resolves after using the toilet
  • Constipation – going to the toilet less often than usual, passing hard faeces or experiencing pain whilst passing faeces; it may be accompanied by cramping lower abdominal pain and bloating
  • Irritable bowel syndrome – abdominal pain, bloating and bouts of diarrhoea and constipation which come and go
  • Period pain – lower abdominal pain which occurs in women at the time of the menstrual cycle which can range from mild to severe depending on the person
  • Appendicitis – inflammation of the appendix (a pouch of the bowel wall) resulting in abdominal pain which gradually gets worse, vomiting and fever; the pain usually starts in the middle of the abdomen and moves towards the right hip bone
  • Urine infection – an ache in the middle part of the lower abdomen, stinging when you pass urine and sometimes accompanied by blood in the urine
  • Diverticular disease – outpouchings of the bowel wall due to a diet low in fibre; it does not usually cause symptoms unless there is an infection, in which case it may cause lower abdominal pain and fever
  • Kidney stones – severe abdominal pain which starts in the lower back and moves to the lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by blood in the urine; the pain comes and goes initially and settles when the stone has passed through the body
  • Gallstones –right-sided upper abdominal pain (just below the ribs) which comes and goes; occasionally can cause infection of the bile drainage system in the body, which may cause severe pain, fever and yellowing of the skin
  • Gastroenteritis (food poisoning) – infection of the gut causing cramping abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Gastric and duodenal ulcers – sores which develop in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (upper part of the bowel) which cause abdominal pain that comes and goes; the pain is in the upper abdomen and may feel like it moves through to the back; eating can improve the pain of gastric ulcers, but usually worsens the pain of duodenal ulcers
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – inflammation of the bowel wall that causes abdominal pain, diarrhoea containing blood and feeling unwell; symptoms often come and go in ‘flares’, which can be treated with medications such as steroids
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease – infection of the female reproductive organs causing pain in the lower abdomen, pain during sex and vaginal discharge; requires treatment with antibiotics
  • Gastritis – inflammation of the lining of the stomach causing a ‘burning’ upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fullness after eating
  • Cancer – although not the most common cause of abdominal pain, certain types of cancer may present with abdominal pain
    • Bowel cancer – may cause abdominal pain, weight loss, a change in bowel habits (either changing from going regularly to being constipated or going from being to regular to having loose bowel motions) and blood in the faeces
    • Pancreatic cancer – may cause upper abdominal pain that moves to the back and commonly causes jaundice
    • Stomach cancer – may cause upper abdominal pain, nausea and fullness after eating
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When should I see a doctor for abdominal pain?

See your doctor if you have:

  • Pain which has worsened quickly
  • Pain or bloating which reoccurs
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Pain whilst passing urine or faeces
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bleeding from the back passage or vagina (outside of the menstrual cycle)
  • Discharge or mucous from the back passage or vagina
  • Diarrhoea which persists after a few days

 

See your doctor urgently if you have:

  • Abdominal pain which came on suddenly or is very severe
  • Pain when pressing your stomach
  • Vomiting blood or a substance that looks like coffee grounds
  • Black or blood-stained faeces that are foul-smelling
  • Not been able to pass urine, faeces or wind
  • Abdominal pain with shortness of breath or chest pain

 

What can I do about my abdominal pain?

  • MEDICATION: If your doctor has recommended any medication for a condition leading to your abdominal pain (such as antibiotics for an infection, antacids for indigestion, or steroids for inflammatory bowel disease), you should take these as advised
  • HEALTHY EATING: Consuming a diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre allows your bowels to move regularly, which reduces constipation and other bowel problems
  • HYDRATION: Drinking plenty of water (at least 6-8 cups per day) can prevent problems like constipation and bloating
  • EXERCISE: Physical exercise can help stimulate the bowels to move and prevents problems like constipation
  • WEIGHT LOSS: If you are overweight, losing weight will reduce your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease, but has also shown to reduce the frequency of indigestion and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

 

References

NHS: Stomach ache

Patient.info: Abdominal pain

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