Causes of abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is a very common problem affecting almost everyone at some time. It is an umbrella term used for any pain occurring in the abdominal area irrespective of the organ. But proper diagnosis can reveal the exact nature and cause of the pain.

Most often, bellyache is not severe and resolves on its own or with simple treatment. However, pain in the abdomen area can also be indicative of a serious medical problem.


There are many possible causes of abdominal pain. These can range from common problems to serious illnesses.

Common causes:

  • Indigestion
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Viral gastroenteritis (stomach virus)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Ulcers
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Other possible causes:

  • Food allergies
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Food poisoning
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hernia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gallstones
  • Kidney stones
  • Appendicitis
  • Cancers of the liver, pancreas or stomach

When to seek treatment?

If your abdominal pain is persistent or severe, it is time to seek medical care. You should also see a doctor immediately if your bellyache is accompanied by any of the following symptoms –

  • High fever
  • Dehydration
  • Persistent vomiting, bloody vomits, nausea
  • Tenderness in the belly
  • Bloody stools
  • Abdomen swelling
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Pain during urination, frequent urination, blood in the urine
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain
  • Severe neck or shoulder pain

Causes and treatments:

  • When abdominal pain is related to your menstrual cycle, your doctor can suggest nonprescription pain relievers that you can take to ease the pain.
  • For infections, a course of antibiotics may be enough to provide relief from the pain.
  • If the bellyache is related to your food choices, your doctor may ask you to eliminate a particular food group from your diet.
  • For other serious problems, your doctor may order diagnostic tests such as CT scans, endoscopy, and urine, stool or blood analysis.
  • For very serious illnesses, surgery may be the only option.

Treatment of bellyache may depend on the cause and symptoms you experience.

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