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Abdominal Problems

Abdominal Pain

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

You can get clues about the cause of abdominal pain and how serious the problem may be by noting the following:

Generalized pain is pain that occurs in more than half of the abdomen. Generalized pain can occur with many different illnesses, most of which will go away without medical treatment. Heartburn (indigestion) and stomach flu are common problems that can cause generalized abdominal pain. Cramping , which can be very painful, is rarely serious if passing gas or a stool relieves it. Many women have cramping pain with their periods. Unless it is significantly different than usual, or it localizes, generalized pain is usually not a cause for concern.

Localized pain is pain that is most intense in one part of the abdomen. Localized pain that comes on suddenly and persists, that gradually becomes more severe, or that gets

Abdominal Problems

Symptoms

Possible Causes

Nausea or vomiting

Nausea and Vomiting, See Nausea and Vomiting ; Hepatitis, See Hepatitis; Medication reaction -- call your doctor or pharmacist; Adverse Drug Reactions, See Adverse Drug Reactions.

Bowel Movements

Frequent, watery stools

Diarrhea, See Diarrhea; Stomach Flu and Food Poisoning, See Stomach Flu and Food Poisoning; Antibiotics, See Antibiotics.

Stools are dry and difficult to pass

Constipation, See Constipation.

Bloody or black, tarry stools

Ulcers, See Ulcers; Diarrhea, See Diarrhea.

Pain during bowel movements; bright red blood on surface of stool or on toilet paper

Rectal Problems, See Rectal Problems.

Abdominal Pain

Pain and tenderness localized to one place with possible nausea, vomiting, and fever

Appendicitis, See Sometimes the appendix becomes inflamed or infected (appendicitis). If not treated, appendicitis can cause the appendix to burst and spread infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis).; Urinary Tract Infections, See Urinary Tract Infections; Ovarian Cyst, See Any abdominal pain that lasts more than a few days needs to be evaluated by a health professional.; Gallstones, See Gallstones; Kidney Stones, See Kidney Stones; also See Abdominal Pain.

Bloating and gas with diarrhea, constipation, or both

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, See Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Burning or discomfort behind or below breastbone

Heartburn, See Heartburn; Ulcers, See Ulcers; Chest Pain, See Chest Pain.

Pain in lower abdomen and lower back just before menstrual period

Menstrual Cramps, See Menstrual Cramps; Ovarian Cyst, See Any abdominal pain that lasts more than a few days needs to be evaluated by a health professional.

Pain on one side of lower abdomen with possible pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy, See Ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg attaches somewhere other than the uterus, also called tubal pregnancy) usually causes lower abdominal pain, and there may be vaginal bleeding..

Urination

Pain or burning while urinating

Urinary Tract Infections, See Urinary Tract Infections; Kidney Stones, See Kidney Stones; Prostate Problems, See Prostate Infection (Prostatitis) See Prostate Cancer; Sexually Transmitted Diseases, See Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Difficulty urinating or weak urine stream (men)

Prostate Problems, See Prostate Infection (Prostatitis) See Prostate Cancer.

Blood in urine

Urinary Tract Infections, See Urinary Tract Infections; Kidney Stones, See Kidney Stones; also See Blood in the Urine.

Abdominal Lumps or Swelling

Painless lump or swelling in groin that comes and goes

Hernia, See Hernia.

Very rigid or distended abdomen

Blunt Abdominal Wounds, See Blunt Abdominal Wounds; Watch for shock, See Shock.

worse when you move or cough may indicate a problem in an abdominal organ, such as appendicitis, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, ovarian cyst, or gallbladder disease.

Any abdominal pain that lasts more than a few days needs to be evaluated by a health professional.

If you have abdominal pain, it helps to tell your doctor exactly where the pain is.

Home Treatment

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Most of the time, abdominal pain improves with Home Treatment and does not require a visit to a health professional.

Specific Home Treatment for abdominal pain often depends on the symptoms that accompany the pain, such as diarrhea or nausea and vomiting. Be sure to review the Home Treatment guidelines for any other symptoms you have that are covered in this or other chapters.

Appendicitis

Sometimes the appendix becomes inflamed or infected (appendicitis). If not treated, appendicitis can cause the appendix to burst and spread infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis).

Typical symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Pain in the abdomen that begins around the navel or a little higher. The pain becomes more intense and then moves (localizes) below the navel or to the lower right part of the abdomen. The pain is steady and gets worse when you walk or cough.

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

  • Fever and chills.

Call your health professional:

  • If you think you have appendicitis.

  • If continuous pain in the lower right abdomen lasts longer than 4 hours.

If you have mild abdominal pain without other symptoms, try the following:

  • Rest until you are feeling better.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. You may find that taking small, frequent sips of a beverage is easier on your stomach than trying to drink a whole glass at once.

  • Try eating several small meals instead of 2 or 3 large ones. Eat mild foods, such as rice, dry toast or crackers, bananas, and applesauce. Avoid spicy foods, other fruits, alcohol, and drinks that contain caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms have gone away.

When to Call a Health Professional

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Call 911 or emergency services if you have any of the following:

  • Signs of shock See Shock).

  • Pain in the upper abdomen with chest pain that is crushing or squeezing, feels like a heavy weight on your chest, or occurs with any other symptoms of a heart attack See Heart Attack).

  • Signs of severe dehydration See Dehydration).

  • Severe abdominal pain following an injury to the abdomen.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Ongoing severe abdominal pain.

  • Localized pain that lasts longer than 4 hours.

  • Generalized abdominal pain or cramping pain that has lasted longer than 24 hours and is not improving.

  • Inability to keep down fluids.

  • Pain that gets worse when you move or cough and does not feel like a pulled muscle.

  • Any abdominal pain that has lasted longer than 3 days.

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