Abdominal pain symptoms and signs are very common. Here I will introduce you to the areas of the abdomen in relation to the sort of pain problems that you may be experiencing.
When looking at the causes of abdominal pain, it is best to split them in to left and right sided causes.
Below I will give you some examples of abdominal pain, but first I would like to define what it is:
Abdominal pain is often described to me as stomach ache, a spasm or severe discomfort.
It is a common cause of hospital admission and can be associated with a variety of other symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting and change in bowel habit.
There are many different causes, some of which you may be surprised to know as the pain might not even originate from your abdomen!
So what are the causes? Well, they are actually quite extensive so forgive me for giving you a list of causes of abdominal pain symptoms.
I have split them in to left and right sided abdominal pain causes (I will further split right sided in to lower right abdominal pain causes too for a more focused view) for your convenience.
This list is to give you some idea of causes, but the bottom line when you have the symptoms they should be investigated and I will discuss this latter on for you.
Cholecystitis - an inflammation of your gallbladder. This is usually due to gallstones, although it can occur without when it is known as acalculus cholecystitis. The discomfort is in the right upper abdomen radiating through to the back and sometimes the shoulder. It is often associated with nausea, vomiting, sometimes change in bowel habit and fever.
Liver discomfort - lots of causes, but broadly divided in to hepatitis (or inflammation of the liver due to various causes including infection, alcohol, drugs and others) or liver capsule pain from infection or tumours usually.
Bowel spasm - again lots of causes including infections, inflammatory causes (IBD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome, tumours and other rarer causes.
Kidney tract - renal stones and infections being the most common although tumours can also cause this.
Musculoskeletal - referred pain from your back and muscle pain can give rise to right sided abdominal symptoms.
Vascular causes - vascular means blood vessel causes. This is usually split in to vascular leaking as in ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm or due to poor blood flow or "ischaemic" abdominal pain.
Referred - referred symptoms can occur from various sites including the heart (heart attacks, pericarditis) or the lung for example pneumonia or a collapsed lung (pneumothorax).
Now, more specifically I would like to give you a list of causes of lower right sided abdominal pain symptoms. Some of these are also in the right sided causes section, but there are other more specific causes too:
Viral or Bacterial Gastroenteritis (see stomach flu symptoms)
Acute inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis)
Appendicitis - Appendix abdominal pain can start in the left side of the abdomen or midline, localising to the right lower abdomen as symptoms progress. The abdominal pain symptoms may be associated with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and fever, but it can be very difficult determine for certain that it is appendix pain. It's important to seek early help from a medical practitioner if you display any of these symptoms.
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Ischaemic Colitis (Usually in the elderly)- often associated with diarrhea which can be bloody, nausea, vomiting and fever. A potentially life threatening condition requiring early medical intervention.
Tumours – Bowel cancer, rare tumours such as carcinoid.
Urinary tract infection/UTI
Kidney or renal stones
Hydronephrosis (Dilated ureter or urine tube due to various causes)
Mittelschmertz syndrome - Mid-cycle bleeding into the fallopian tube.
Endometritis (Inflamed womb lining)
Endometriosis - Abnormal womb tissue outside of the uterus.
Leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm - usually in the elderly
Acute bowel ischaemia (lack of blood flow to the bowel usually due to blood clot)
Portal/Hepatic vein thrombosis - blood clot in the main vein to/from the liver.
Retroperitoneal bleeding of various cause
Radiation of Lumbar back pain
Neuropathic pain - nerve related
Lower left abdominal symptoms may be due to any of the above, but may also be caused by:
Diverticulitis (see diverticulitis symptoms)
Lower left abdominal pain symptoms may be due to any of the above, but may also be caused by:
Splenic discomfort from enlargement or infarction
Pancreatitis - Inflamed pancreas due to many causes, the most common being alcohol and gallstones.
There are many investigations that can be done. The type of investigation really depends on your doctors clinical suspicion. Most people with abdominal pain will receive some basic investigations after your doctor has taken a thorough history and examined you. These include blood tests and a check of your urine.
Treatment of abdominal pain symptoms depends on the underlying cause. The most important treatment is pain relief and this can be anything from simple analgesics such as Paracetamol or Tylenol through to very powerful analgesics such as Morphine.
Of course, the most important most important thing is to have a diagnosis so that treatment whether with drugs or surgery can be started.
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