The abdomen is the area that falls between your chest and pelvis that is commonly referred to as your belly. It consists of stomach, liver, small intestine, large intestine, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, diaphragm, and pancreas among other organs. The front of the abdomen consists of a tissue layer known as fascia, and the back of the abdomen consists of spine and back muscles. Blood vessels are connected with the abdomen, mainly theinferior vena cava and aorta and its branches.
Abdominal pain is also referred to as stomachache or stomach pain and can be of varying intensity. It occurs between the chest and the pelvis and it can be felt either as sharp localized pain or as dull intermittent pain depending on the causes. There are cases of pain abdomen radiating to other parts of the body like the shoulders, scrotal region and the back in particular cases.
Abdominal pain may be caused due to various reasons. The following are some of the common causes of abdominal pain:
Apart from these causes, abdominal pain can be caused due to pulled muscles, food intolerances, celiac disease, hepatitis, cysts, organ cancer, or cardiac conditions.
There are three types of abdominal pain that you can experience; cramp-like, localized, or colicky.
Localized abdominal pain is when only one area of the abdomen is aching. This type of abdominal pain is usually caused due to issues associated with a single organ. Examples of localized abdominal pain are stomach ulcers.
Colicky abdominal pain is when you have a sharp, severe spasmodic pain which cannot be localised to one place which is waxing and waning persisting for few minutes reducing and recurring again.. This type of abdominal pain can last long if left untreated. You can experience this due to kidney stones, intestinal obstruction etc
Cramp-like abdominal pain is when you experience pain similar to cramps. Sometimes this type of pain goes away without you doing anything. Women can experience this pain due to menstruation. Other causes of this type of pain include constipation, flatulence, or diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome etc.
Mild abdominal pain usually subsides without any treatment. But it is still a good idea to contact your doctor if you have abdominal pain which is recurrent and disturbing because it can indicate other health issues. You should see your doctor when you have any of the following problems in addition to abdominal pain.
You should call emergency services when you are injured, and when you have severe unbearable abdominal pain. Additionally, if you experience pain or pressure in your chest along with abdominal pain, then you should contact emergency services.
Your doctor will take a detailed history of the onset of pain, site of pain and the severity. He will inquire about the associated symptoms like vomiting, jaundice etc. Then he/she will perform a detailed clinical examination. He will press your abdomen to understand where you feel pain and to check for any swelling in the abdomen. With utmost gentleness he/she will try to localise the site of pain, type of pain and the likely reason of pain. With the help of a stethoscope, your doctor will listen so that he can understand what is going on with your abdomen and the problems that exists. This information enables your doctor to order particular tests needed for diagnosis and mangement of the current problem. The following are some of the tests that are used to diagnose abdominal pain after a physical examination.
Upper endoscopy is a test that enables your doctor to examine your esophagus, stomach and small part of small intestine. Upper endoscopy is also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or OGD. A thin and flexible tube, called an endoscope, is put into your mouth and gradually proceeded through the throat into the food pipe, stomach and the intestines. At the end of the tube is a camera that enables your doctor to view your stomach and small intestine thoroughly.
An abdominal ultrasound is another test that is used to create images of your abdomen area organs. It uses sound waves of high-frequency to create images on a screen that your doctor can then study to determine why you are having abdominal pain. It can easily detect issues that are affecting your organs in the abdomen. It is usually used as first method of screening for abdominal problems like gall stones, kidney stones, pancreatitis and other problems.
If your doctor feels that the cause of your abdominal pain is appendicitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis or cancers, he may perform a computed tomography commonly known as CT scan. In this, detailed images of your abdomen are created with the help of a computer and X-rays. This helps your doctor see where the problem lies in your abdomen.
When your doctor thinks the cause of your abdominal pain is due to liver problems, he might get routine blood tests, USG abdomen. He may perform a biopsy if the routine tests are not conclusive. In this test, a piece of tissue is taken to diagnose organ problems due to which you are having abdominal pain. A biopsy can be used to diagnose cancer, as well.
Lower GI endoscopy is another test used to diagnose abdominal pain. It is also known as a colonoscopy. This test is used to determine problems in the colon and rectum, such as bleeding or cancer. In this procedure, an endoscope is inserted through the anus opening so that the colon and rectum can be thoroughly analyzed. The scope can be advanced into the last part of small intestines for evaluation of of problems in the last part of intestines.
MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging is a test that is used to check organs in the abdomen, such as the pancreas, Gall bladder and liver. In an MRI test, detailed images of the abdomen are created with the help of radio waves in a magnetic field. A scanner is used to produce abdomen images that help your doctor determine the root cause of your abdominal pain.
Your doctor can perform an abdominal X-ray to diagnose abdominal pain and gastric problems. In this test, your abdomen’s X-ray is taken. This enables your doctor to take a look at all the organs particularly intestines in the abdominal area. Issues such as perforation in your abdomen can be seen by your doctor when an X-ray is done.
ERCP or Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is a test used to examine the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. A special endoscope is used in ERCP, and it is used to examine your digestive system. This helps your doctor take a thorough look at the ducts of bile flow called as common bile duct and pancreatic duct along with ducts connecting the gall bladder and the ducts in liver. This procedure also helps in removing stones in the bile duct and pancreatic ducts and helps in relieving of any obstruction in ducts with or without placement of stent.
Barium Upper GI series is a test that can help diagnose abdominal pain caused due to ulcers, abnormal communication between organs, reflux, obstruction, changes due to disturbed absorption and other problems. You are required to swallow a solution of barium followed by multiple X ray images as barium solution flows through the esophaus, stomach and intestines.
One of the leading causes of abdominal pain is a gastric outlet obstruction or gastroparesis (slow emptying of food in stomach). If your doctor believes that your pain is linked to that, he might suggest gastric emptying study. In this test, your doctor tests the rate at which your food passes through your stomach. A scanner is used to view the movement of the food in this test.
pH testing can be used by your doctor to check your esophagus’s acid levels. A thin catheter is inserted through your nose, and the acid levels in the esophagus are monitored and examined by your doctor. Your doctor can diagnose problems such as GERD that causes abdominal pain with the help of pH testing.
Apart from the tests described above, your doctor might take urine, blood, or stool samples to check for infections that may be causing abdominal pain. Sometimes abdominal pain is caused due to viral infections, bacterial infections, or parasitic infections.
Any type of abdominal pain is uncomfortable, but there are ways in which you can prevent it. The following are some easy ways to avoid abdominal pain from occurring.
You can try the following natural home remedies to find relief when you have abdominal pain or gas trouble.
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