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Abdominal pain is pain in the stomach or intestinal area. Everyone has this pain from time to time. In many cases it goes away on its own. But abdominal pain can sometimes be due to a serious problem, such as appendicitis. So it’s important to know when to seek help.
There are many possible causes of abdominal pain. Common causes in adults include:
Constipation, diarrhea, or gas
GERD (movement of stomach acid into the esophagus, also known as acid reflux or heartburn)
Peptic ulcer (a sore in the lining of the stomach or small intestine)
Inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas
Gallstones or kidney stones
Hernia (bulging of an internal organ through a muscle or other tissue)
Urinary tract infections
In women, menstrual cramps, fibroids, or endometriosis of the uterus
Inflammation or infection of the intestines
Your health care provider will examine you to help find the cause of your pain. If needed, tests will be ordered. Because abdominal pain has so many possible causes, it can be hard to discover the reason for the pain. Giving details about your pain can help. Be ready to tell your health care provider where and when you feel the pain and what makes it better or worse. Also mention whether you have other symptoms such as fever, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, or changes in bathroom habits.
Certain causes of pain, such as appendicitis or a bowel obstruction, need emergency treatment. Other problems can be treated with rest, fluids, or medications. Your health care provider can give you specific instructions for treatment or self-care based on the cause of your pain.
If you are have vomiting or diarrhea, sip water or other clear fluids. When you are ready to eat solid foods again, start with small amounts of easy-to-digest, low-fat foods, such as applesauce, toast, or crackers.
Call 911 or go to the hospital right away if you:
Can’t pass stool and are vomiting
Are vomiting blood or have black tarry diarrhea
Also have chest, neck, or shoulder pain
Feel like you are about to pass out
Have pain in your shoulder blades with nausea
Have sudden, excruciating abdominal pain
Have new, severe pain unlike any you have felt before
Have a belly that is rigid, hard, and tender to touch
Call your doctor if you have:
Pain for more than 5 days
Bloating for more than 2 days
Diarrhea for more than 5 days
Fever of 101°F or higher
Pain that continues to worsen
Unexplained weight loss
Continued lack of appetite
Blood in the stool
Here are some tips to help prevent abdominal pain:
Eat smaller amounts of food at one time.
Avoid greasy, fried, or other high-fat foods.
Avoid foods that give you gas.
Drink plenty of fluids.
To help prevent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD):
Lose excess weight.
Finish eating at least 2 hours before you go to bed or lie down.
Elevate the head of your bed.