What is stomach and abdominal pain?
Stomach and abdominal pain is a condition that causes chronic stomach and abdominal discomfort, typically in the upper abdomen. Stomach and abdominal pain can be extremely debilitating and prevent people from performing their daily activities. A person with severe Stomach or abdominal pain may even require hospitalization if they are unable to eat or drink anything without developing severe discomfort.
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What causes stomach and abdominal pain?
The causes of abdominal pain are often difficult to determine outright. However, there are generally two key causes of abdominal pain.
The first cause of Stomach and Abdominal pain is an underlying, serious medical condition. Complications resulting from cancer treatment are one primary example of a more serious condition that can also be accompanied by severe discomfort.
In many cases, the underlying condition has led to a part of the digestive tract becoming inflamed or infected. A stomach ulcer, Crohn’s disease, or appendicitis would all fall into this category.
In other cases, there may not be a clear cause for the onset of stomach and abdominal discomfort. This form of abdominal pain is often associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
IBS is by long-term chronic abdominal discomfort or pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea. It can also have a major impact on quality of life because it significantly affects lifestyle choices and activities people perform every day.
The second primary cause of stomach and abdominal pain is stress and anxiety. While this often refers to the physical manifestations that come from stress (such as a faster heart rate or increased blood pressure), many people can develop stomach cramps when they are experiencing high levels of psychological stress.
What are the symptoms that accompany stomach and abdominal pain?
The symptoms of Stomach and Abdominal pain depend largely on the cause of the discomfort. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may even come and go over time. The most common symptoms that accompany Stomach or Abdominal pain include:
While stomach cramps can be the result of IBS, they are not always present when people experience Acute Abdominal pain. If you experience lower abdominal or upper abdomen discomfort that’s severe with pain that increases when you press on your stomach, you may have appendicitis
Rapid swelling in the abdominal area can be caused by an accumulation of gas, fluid, or stool.
Elevated body temperature is often accompanied by Stomach and Abdominal pain that accompanies a fever. The discomfort may become more severe if you also have diarrhoea.
Nausea is the feeling that you are about to vomit. Vomiting refers to actually bringing up stomach contents through your mouth. While nausea can be present with any type of Stomach or Abdominal pain, it is especially common with conditions such as appendicitis, IBS, food poisoning, ulcers, pancreatitis, gallstones, and certain types of cancer.
Loss of appetite occurs when the stomach is unable to handle food. This can be one symptom of stomach and abdominal pain due to an underlying condition. However, it may also occur as a result of stress or anxiety.
Diarrhoea is defined as having three or more loose stools per day. Stomach and Abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhoea frequently happens because the large intestine (colon) rapidly absorbs fluids into the body that move much faster than normal through your digestive tract.
Constipation can be explained as bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. In extreme cases, severe constipation can cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and even stomach and abdominal pain that worsens when you stand up. The discomfort is usually relieved by a bowel movement.
An upset stomach occurs when the digestive system isn’t working properly due to increased stomach acid or other factors. While mild forms of stomach and abdominal pain will go away without treatment, more severe forms can be a sign of a serious health condition such as appendicitis.
In addition to these symptoms, a person with chronic abdominal pain will often have other signs that may indicate a more serious condition at play. These additional clinical signs of stomach or abdominal pain include:
- Extreme pain during a bowel movement: Analgesics often do not decrease the severity of pain during a bowel movement, which can indicate an underlying cause.
- Excessive or unusual weight loss: Severe cases of stomach and abdominal pain may lead to rapid weight loss due to a lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, and other conditions that can cause malnutrition.
- Shortness of breath: This sign occurs with stomach and abdominal pain due to an underlying health condition that could be putting pressure on the respiratory system.
- Skin changes: The appearance of rashes, spots, hives, or other skin changes can be a sign of stomach and abdominal pain due to an immune response to an infection.
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What are the risk factors for stomach and abdominal pain?
With the exception of sudden and severe pain, most cases of stomach and abdominal pain don’t come with a clear warning sign. Oftentimes, there is no way of knowing how it will develop or what will bring about an episode. That said, there are certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing this condition:
Anyone can experience stomach or abdominal pain, but many children do not receive a diagnosis until they reach the age of 16
A history of sexual abuse makes you more likely to experience chronic abdominal discomfort as adults.
Coexisting depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions may be caused by underlying physical conditions such as gastritis, ulcers, and IBS. These conditions can lead to stomach and abdominal pain that may be misdiagnosed or misconveyed as a mental health issue.
Women are more likely than men to experience stomach and abdominal pain due to underlying problems such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
People who have arthritis or other chronic autoimmune disorders such as lupus have an increased risk of developing chronic abdominal discomfort due to inflammation in the digestive tract.
Your daily activities affect your overall health, including the health of your digestive system. The more involved you are in a physical activity regimen, the healthier your body will be overall—even your digestive tract.
If you have a family history of stomach and abdominal discomfort, you may also experience this condition or share risk factors with your family members.
Which treatments can help with stomach and abdominal pain?
Stomach and abdominal discomfort are caused by a variety of conditions, including infections, cancers, injuries, and gastrointestinal diseases. Treatment will vary based on the cause, but common treatments may include:
- Antibiotics for bacterial infections
- Hormonal therapy for endometriosis
- Surgery for cancerous tumours, hernias, or ulcers
- Treating the root cause of IBS
- Anti-diarrhoea medications for diarrhoea
- Antacids to ease pain and stomach upset
- Laxatives or stool softeners for constipation or hard stools
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, and naproxen to ease stomach pain
Stomach and abdominal discomfort is a common condition that can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions. If you experience chronic episodes of pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, or other symptoms such as abdominal swelling or bloating, it’s important to seek medical treatment to determine the root cause of your symptoms and receive appropriate care. Abdominal discomfort can oftentimes be serious and should not be ignored.
Recommendation: If the stomach and abdominal discomfort persists for more than 48 hours, speak with your healthcare provider about treatment options. Also, if you have been diagnosed with an illness that causes chronic stomach and abdominal pain, work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs.
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