Abdominal pain is pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. This is often referred to as the stomach region or belly.
Stomach pain; Pain - abdomen; Belly ache; Abdominal cramps
Almost everyone experiences pain in the abdomen at one time or another. Most of the time, it is not caused by a serious medical problem.
There are many organs in the abdomen. Pain in the abdomen can originate from any one of them, including:
- Organs related to digestion -- the end of the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas
- The aorta -- a large blood vessel that runs straight down the inside of the abdomen
- The appendix -- an organ in the lower right abdomen that no longer serves much function
- The kidneys -- two bean-shaped organs that lie deep within the abdominal cavity
- The spleen -- an organ involved in blood maintenance and infection control
However, the pain may start from somewhere else -- like your chest or pelvic area. You may also have a generalized infection, such as the flu or strep throat, that affects many parts of your body.
The intensity of the pain does not always reflect the seriousness of the condition causing the pain. Severe abdominal pain can be from mild conditions, such as gas or the cramping of
Other ways of describing pain in your abdomen include:
- Pain may be generalized, meaning that it is present in more than half of your belly. This is more typical for a stomach virus, indigestion, or gas. If the pain becomes more severe, it may be caused by a blockage of the intestines.
- Pain that is localized is found in only one area of your belly. This type of pain is more likely to be a sign of a problem in one of your organs, such as the appendix, gallbladder, or stomach (ulcers).
- Cramp-like pain is usually not serious, and is more likely to be due to gas and bloating. It is often followed by diarrhea. More worrisome signs include pain that occurs more often, lasts longer (more than 24 hours), or has a fever with it.
- Colicky pain is pain that comes in waves, usually starts and ends suddenly, and is often severe. Kidney stones and gallstones are common causes of this type of belly pain.
Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain. The key is to know when you must seek medical care right away. In many cases you can simply wait, use home care remedies, and call your doctor at a later time only if the symptoms persist.
Possible causes include:
Appendicitis(inflammation of the appendix)
Bowel blockage or obstruction
Cholecystitis(inflammation of the gallbladder) with or without gallstones
Dissecting abdominal aortic aneurysm
Food poisoning(salmonella, shigella) or viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
Heartburn, indigestion, or gastroesophageal reflux
- Inflammatory bowel disease (
Crohn's diseaseor ulcerative colitis)
Intussusception-- while uncommon, this is a serious possible cause of pain in an infant who may be bringing the knees to the chest and crying
Irritable bowel syndrome
- Mesenteric insufficiency or infarction (lack of enough blood supply to the gut, sometimes resulting in the failure or death of part of the bowel or intestines)
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Tumors or cancers
Urinary tract infections
When an inflamed organ (such as the appendix) in the abdomen ruptures or leaks fluid, the pain is not only excruciating, but the abdomen becomes stiff and very tender to the touch. There is also a fever. This occurs as
In infants, prolonged unexplained crying (often called "colic") may be caused by abdominal pain that may end with the passage of gas or stool.
Abdominal pain that occurs during menstruation may be from
Abdominal pain may actually be caused by an organ in the chest, like the lungs (for example,
Other more unusual causes of abdominal pain include a type of emotional upset called