Abdominal Pain


What are the organs in the abdominal cavity?

Abdominal pain can be hard to diagnose because it contains so many organs like:

  • stomach
  • small bowel
  • large bowel
  • kidneys
  • spleen
  • gallbladder
  • liver
  • pancreas

What are the causes of abdominal pain?

Infections, autoimmune diseases, vascular diseases, cancer can also cause abdominal pain. The risk of all these are lowered by having a healthy diet. We are what we eat.

It can be even more confusing because structures that are not in the abdomen, but are around it like the skin, muscle, spine, disc and nerves can all give rise to pain as well. The nerves that give sensation to organs in the abdomen come from the same spinal segment as the bladder and reproductive organs. An issue with the bladder can cause abdominal pain even though there may be nothing wrong in the abdomen, and vice versa.

Common causes of a new abdominal pain include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Stress / Abdominal migraines

Causes of chronic abdominal pain that does not seem to go away include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Food allergies

Causes of severe abdominal pain include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Gallbladder stones
  • Strangulated bowel
  • Perforated bowel, stomach
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Ruptured aortic aneurysm

What does the location of the abdominal pain mean?

Abdominal pain that is everywhere and not really at one spot may be due to :

  • Gastroenteritis / stomach flu
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • ruptured appendix and bowel
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

Pain that is lower down in the abdomen may be due to:

  • Appendicitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Torsion of the ovary
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Urinary infection

Pain in the upper part of the abdomen may be due to:

  • Gastric reflux
  • Gastric ulcer
  • Heart attack
  • Gallstones
  • Lung infection

Pain in the center may be due to:

  • appendicitis
  • stomach flu
  • poisons
  • vascular diseases
  • autoimmune diseases

When should I see a doctor?

You should seek medical attention if you:

  • Cough, vomit or pass blood in your stools
  • Have a fever
  • Turn yellow
  • Have difficulty passing breathing
  • Feel nauseas and sick (and are sure you are not pregnant)
  • Been losing weight for no reason
  • Have a loss of appetite
  • Have a change in your bowel habits for over a week
  • Have persistent abdominal pain

What tests are there to investigate my abdominal pain?

After taking a medical history and doing a physical examination, the doctor may ask for one of the following tests:

  • Abdominal X ray: to look for things gall stones and to see if there is free gas which signals a perforated bowel
  • X ray of the kidney, ureter, bladder: to look for kidney stones
  • Ultrasound scan
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Perhaps the most useful investigations to look for issues and exclude cancer will be the oesophagoscopy and a colonoscopy. People over the age of 50 should undergo screening every few years.


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