Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of abdominal pain

Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of abdominal pain

Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of abdominal pain

Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of abdominal pain

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Abdominal pain may be defined as pain which occurs anywhere between the chest and the pubic region. Any kind of stomach pain will fall under this category. Abdominal pain can be termed as ‘acute’ if it lasts for minutes to days. It is ‘chronic’ if it is of longer duration or recurrent.

Incidence, age and sex

Abdominal pain is one of the commonest complaints experienced by almost everyone at some point in time. It can affect anyone ranging from an infant to an old person. Men and women are equally affected; certain conditions may be common in men and some gynaecological conditions can lead to abdominal pain in women.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms accompanying abdominal pain help in the correct diagnosis. Abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhoea and vomiting point towards stomach infection. Similarly abdominal pain along with fever and loss of weight can indicate malignancy of one of the gastro-intestinal organs. Purpuric rashes along with abdominal pain can be due to some rare diseases like sickle cell anaemia, porphyria, crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Location and characteristic of pain are also important in diagnosing the cause. For example colicky pain occurs in instances of gall stones and renal stones. Constant, dragging pain can be a feature of underlying malignancy. Right sided abdominal pain can indicate an inflammation of the appendix or liver. Pain in the centre of the abdomen can be due to intestinal obstruction, gall bladder or stomach ulcer. Left sided abdominal pain can be due to intestinal obstruction.

Causes and prevention

There are various causes of abdominal pain ranging from benign and functional to life threatening. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the benign and functional causes of abdominal pain and can cause considerable distress to the patient. Some of the life threatening causes of abdominal pain can be due to the rupture of the aortic aneurysm, perforation of the peptic ulcer or trauma to the abdominal organs like liver, spleen, intestines, and kidney. In women, an emergency condition like incomplete abortion may also cause severe abdominal pain.

Inflammation of the gall bladder, the pancreas and the appendix or a stomach infection are some of the common sources of acute abdominal pain. Infection of the kidneys or the urinary tract and kidney stones may also result in abdominal pain.

Recurrent abdominal pain or pain of a longer duration can be because of stomach ulcers, reflux disorders, hepatitis, abdominal tuberculosis, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease or cancers of the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts. Abdominal pain in women may be a result of various diseases like pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis or malignancy of some gynaecological organ.

Occasionally, respiratory diseases like pneumonia or heart ailments may present as abdominal pain.


Abdominal pain per se, has no complications since it in itself not a disease, merely a symptom of a deeper malaise. Abdominal pain together with accompanying clinical features is the presentation of a disease. Any complications which occur will be the result of that disease.

In rare instances, severe intense abdominal pain may cause intestinal obstruction.



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Symptoms, diagnosis and causes of abdominal pain

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