Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a very common reason for seeking medical attention, often leading individuals to visit TotalCare ERs. Understanding the different types of abdominal pain, their potential causes, and when to seek emergency care is crucial for maintaining overall health.

Types of Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can be broadly categorized into generalized and localized pain. Generalized pain, felt in more than half of the belly, is common for issues like stomach viruses, indigestion, or gas though more serious and severe issues can be present. On the other hand, localized pain in a specific area may indicate problems with organs such as the appendix, gallbladder, kidney, or stomach.

Furthermore, abdominal pain can be categorized based on its location and associated symptoms. Here’s an overview of common causes of upper, lower, right-sided, and left-sided quadrant abdominal pain:

Upper Abdominal Pain

Upper abdominal pain is often associated with the digestive process and can extend to the chest, neck, or shoulders. Common causes include, but not limited to the following list:

  • Bloating and gas
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Hepatitis (alcoholic, toxic, metabolic, viral, or autoimmune)
  • Gallstones
  • Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation)
  • Bile duct cancer, stones, and strictures
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney stone
  • Duodenal ulcer
  • Large bowel obstruction
  • Pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Splenomegaly (enlarged spleen)
  • Gastritis
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Bile reflux
  • Stomach cancer

Management may involve everything from dietary and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding caffeine, spicy foods, and alcohol, all the way to emergency intervention. In some cases, upper abdominal pain may mimic warning signs of a heart attack, necessitating immediate medical attention, especially if accompanied by breathlessness, sweating, and chest discomfort.

Lower Abdominal Pain

Lower abdominal pain can result from various factors, including the menstrual cycle, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and constipation. Common causes include, but not limited to the following list:

  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Unusual discharges
  • Painful urination
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis)
  • Large or small bowel obstruction
  • Small intestine cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Peritonitis
  • Mesenteric lymphadenitis
  • Intestinal (mesenteric) ischemic syndrome
  • Hernia
  • Kidney stones
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer

Over-the-counter pain relievers or antacids may help manage certain lower abdominal pains, but medical attention is advised if symptoms are unusual, persistent, or if painful urination occurs.

Right-Sided Abdominal Pain

Pain on the right side of the abdomen is not limited to but may often be linked to gallstones or appendicitis. Symptoms may include, but not limited to the following list:

  • Feeling sick especially after eating a fatty meal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivers and sweats
  • Diarrhea

Immediate medical attention in an emergency room is almost always required to determine the cause of right-sided abdominal pains.

Left-Sided Abdominal Pain

Among other causes, left-sided abdominal pain is commonly attributed to diverticulitis/colitis. Symptoms may include, but not limited to the following list:

  • Pain in the left and/or right abdomen area, back, or genitals
  • Fever, shivers, and chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling sick

For diverticulitis, additional symptoms may include constant or crampy severe abdominal pain, fever, blood in the stool, and blood during defecation.

Understanding the specific characteristics and associated symptoms of abdominal pain can aid in identifying potential causes and seeking timely medical intervention when necessary. If you experience persistent or severe abdominal pain, immediate Emergency Room evaluation may be necessary.

Causes

Abdominal pain can stem from various causes include, but not limited to the following list:

Digestive Issues

  • Indigestion
  • Gas and gas pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Food poisoning
  • Bowel blockage or obstruction
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammation

  • Viral gastroenteritis
  • Heartburn
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Chronic acid reflux (GERD)
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)

Female Reproductive System

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Ovulation pain
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Ruptured ovarian cyst
  • Tubal (ectopic) pregnancy
  • Endometriosis

Other Causes

  • Appendicitis
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Cancer of the stomach, colon, and other organs
  • Decreased blood supply to the intestines
  • Diverticulitis
  • Kidney stones
  • Muscle strain
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ulcers
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Stress
  • Shingles
  • Bloating

When to Visit the ER

While many cases of mild abdominal pain can be managed at home, certain symptoms warrant a visit to the emergency room include, but not limited to the following list:

  • Belly feels hard to the touch
  • Blood in stools, urine, or vomit
  • Burning sensation during urination or having frequent urination
  • Chest, neck, or shoulder pain
  • Severe constipation
  • Diarrhea persisting for multiple days
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • Pain that does not improve within 24 to 48 hours
  • Pain that continuously becomes more severe and frequent
  • Pain accompanied by pregnancy or the possibility of being pregnant
  • Persistent bloating 
  • Persistent fever
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Prolonged poor appetite
  • Prolonged vaginal bleeding
  • Shortness of breath or symptoms worsening with exertion
  • Specific conditions such as being pregnant, recent abdominal injury, or ongoing cancer treatment
  • Sudden onset of sharp abdominal pain
  • Suffering from a recent injury to the abdomen
  • Suffering from prolonged weight loss
  • Swelling and tenderness to the touch 
  • Tenderness in the abdominal area

Diagnosis

There’s a very wide range of potential causes for abdominal pain, making an accurate diagnosis often difficult and requiring a professional evaluation for effective treatment. At TotalCare ER, we prioritize your health by offering 24/7 access to state-of-the-art diagnostic tools such as Ultrasound and CT scans, along with in-house labs. Our dedicated physicians and staff conduct thorough history and physical examinations to fully understand the underlying cause of your abdominal pain. This comprehensive approach enables us to provide the most effective, efficient, and rapid treatment plan, ensuring you feel better as soon as possible.

How to Deal with Abdominal Pain At Home

For mild abdominal pain not requiring emergency care, consider the following at-home measures:

  • Drink water to stay hydrated
  • Rest
  • Gradually reintroduce light foods like crackers and rice
  • Avoid certain foods that may exacerbate symptoms
  • Use antacids as directed by a healthcare professional

Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your specific symptoms and medical history. If in doubt, seek medical attention promptly.

What to Expect at your ER Visit

When you visit a TotalCare Emergency Department, you can expect to be treated quickly, professionally, and with respect. We understand that abdominal pain and its associated symptoms can sometimes be very frustrating, personal, or embarrassing. However with our extremely short waiting room times and compassionate medical staff, you will not only be treated with personal dignity but also with cutting edge diagnostic tools by compassionate doctors and caring medical staff. So next time you or your loved one experience abdominal pain, don’t let it go half treated. Come visit the Emergency Department at TotalCare.