What are the most common causes of abdominal pain and discomfort?
Your abdomen contains a number of organs, and so there are many potential causes of abdominal pain. These include:
- Food poisoning, allergies or sensitivities
- Liver or kidney problems (for example hepatitis or kidney stones)
- Gallstones or gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Inflammation of the stomach (gastritis)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Tumours or bowel obstruction
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Viral infections
Fortunately, the vast majority of causes of abdominal pain are not too serious and can be treated quickly and effectively. Seeing an expert is important in ensuring that there is no serious underlying cause, however. Certain symptoms, such as blood in the vomit or stools, persistent nausea or vomiting, persistent constipation, fevers, or weight loss are important, and if these are present, more immediate medical attention should be sought.
How is the cause of abdominal pain diagnosed?
Initially, a detailed history is taken to see if there are clues about the cause of the problem. In particular, the type and pattern of pain can be very helpful. A physical examination may assist in establishing the likely diagnosis. Investigations are the final step, including blood tests, stool samples, gastroscopy or colonoscopy, and radiological investigations (like CT scanning).
How is abdominal pain treated?
Treatment typically depends on the cause of abdominal pain, as well as the symptoms. Lifestyle and dietary changes are often recommended, along with medications. Minimally invasive procedures and sometimes surgery. In some cases, a pain specialist may be involved in order to assist with treatment of the pain, in addition to treatment of the cause of the pain.
When should I see a specialist for abdominal pain?
The following symptoms accompanied by abdominal pain warrant a visit to a gastroenterologist or general surgeon at PIMS:
- Decreased appetite or weight loss
- Weight loss
- Frequent or persistent vomiting or chronic constipation
- Burning when passing urine
- Abdominal pain that last more than 24hrs or is extremely severe
- Blood in the vomit or stools
- Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)