Pain in the abdomen may have multiple causes. It can be sudden “acute” or develops gradually and last for a long time “chronic”. Pain may have multiple characteristics and feel crampy, dull, sharp or nagging, mild or severe. It can be felt in one or more parts of the abdomen and travel to other adjacent regions. Abdominal pain may also be associated with nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or bleeding.
Abdominal pain may also be caused by problems with digestive, urinary, reproductive or vascular systems or even organs located in the chest or genital area but feel like pain in the abdomen.
Pain in the abdomen can be true medical emergency. It is called “acute abdomen”. People with “acute abdomen” need urgent medical attention. Appendicitis (condition when the appendix which is a small thin pouch in the beginning of the large intestine becomes inflamed) may cause acute abdomen and require immediate surgery. Perforated ulcer (a hole in the stomach or intestine), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas which is a gland located un upper abdomen that produces digestive enzymes and insulin), gallstones or gall bladder inflammation (organ that stores a bile produced by the liver used in fat breakdown), diverticulitis (inflammation and infection of small pouches in the large intestine), abscess (a collection of puss), kidney stones or severe kidney infection, bowel perforation (a hole in the bowel wall), ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside of uterus) or ruptured ovarian cyst (fluid-filled sac that can break open and leak) can cause severe abdominal pain and “acute abdomen.”
Pain in the abdomen can be due to less sever causes like food poisoning from toxins in food, viral or bacterial infection that causes diarrhea and vomiting or gastritis (stomach inflammation).
To evaluate abdominal pain medical professionals use tools like:
Physical exam, blood or urine tests, imaging (X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI), endoscopy (looking inside with camera).