Doctor's Notes on Abdominal Pain in Adults
Abdominal pain in adults has many different causes. These can include infections of the gastrointestinal tract, peptic ulcer disease, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, appendicitis, hepatitis, gallbladder disease, and kidney stones. Sometimes, ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids in women, testicular problems in men, heart attack, skin rashes, or urinary tract infections can be causes of abdominal pain in adults.
Signs and symptoms associated with abdominal pain depend on the cause of the pain. Symptoms can include:
- weight loss,
- gas, and
- abdominal cramping or tenderness.
Other possible symptoms include:
- blood in the stool or urine,
- abdominal masses,
- testicular pain,
- back pain,
- pain with urination,
- pain with sexual intercourse, and
- discharge from the penis or vagina.
What Is the Treatment for Abdominal Pain in Adults?
Treatment for abdominal pain in adults varies widely, depending on the cause of the pain and the conditions that may be causing the pain. It is important to determine whether the pain is coming from the digestive system or is related to another condition such as a heart attack, urinary tract infection, or endometriosis. Treatments may include:
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Acute and Chronic PancreatitisPancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. There are two kinds of pancreatitis, acute and chronic. The primary causes of pancreatitis are alcohol and gallstones. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include nausea, fever, dehydration, and rapid heartbeat. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include bleeding from anemia, jaundice and other liver problems, weight loss, and diabetes. Treatment of individuals with pancreatitis caused by alcohol abuse is stopping all alcohol use. Examples of other treatments may include gallbladder removal, antibiotics, or change in diet (high carbohydrate low-fat diet).
Aortic Aneurysm (Abdomen and Thorax - Chest)An aortic aneurysm is a medical emergency. Abnormal enlargement or bulging of the aorta becomes an aortic aneurysm when this area becomes weakened. Some of the symptoms of an aortic aneurysm include back pain, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Common causes of an aortic aneurysm include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammatory aneurysm, or injury to the chest wall. Treatment of aortic aneurysm depends upon the cause.
AppendicitisThe cause of appendicitis is not clear. Common symptoms of appendicitis include vague abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, constipation, diarrhea. Some people have no symptoms of appendicitis. Treatment for appendicitis is generally an appendectomy (removal of the appendix).
Clostridium Difficile (C. difficile)Clostridium difficile (or C. difficile, C. diff) colitis is an infection of the colon. C. diff infection is most commonly associated with antibiotic use. Another common name is pseudomembranous colitis. C. diff bacteria is commonly found on items such as floors, bedpans, phones, and fingernails, etc. C. diff infection causes are use of certain antibiotics. Risk factors for C. diff infection include hospitalization, age, and chronic medical conditions. Treatment is generally with another antibiotic.
ColitisColitis is an inflammation of the colon. There are many cause of colitis, infectious colitis (bacterial or viral), ischemic colitis, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis), microscopic colitis (lymphocytic and collagenous), and chemical colitis. Symptoms of colitis are generally diarrhea (may be bloody) and abdominal pain and/or cramping. Treatment of colitis depends upon the cause.
Crohn's DiseaseCrohn's disease (Crohn disease) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and is a chronic long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. Symptoms of Crohn's disease include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, bloating, and infections of the urinary tract and vagina. Treatment for Crohn's disease includes lifestyle changes in diet, medication, and surgery.
Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis)Diverticulitis is an inflammation of the diverticula in the colon. This conditions is referred to as diverticulosis. Causes of diverticulosis (diverticulitis) include aging, a low fiber diet, frequent constipation and bowel straining. Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and cramping. Treatment generally requires a high fiber diet and frequent liquid hydration to prevent constipation. If complications occur with the disease or it becomes severe, surgery may be necessary.
EndometriosisEndometriosis is a disease in which abnormal endometrial cells grow outside of the uterus and other organs commonly found in the pelvic area. Some women with endometriosis have no symptoms, but others with the disease may experience pelvic pain, pain during intercourse and during pelvic exams, cramping during sex, bowel movements, or while urinating. The four stages of endometriosis are minimal, mild, moderate, and severe. Medications and surgery are treatments for endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic condition and there is no cure.
GallstonesGallstones are solid particles that form from bile in the gallbladder. There are two types of gallstones, cholesterol and pigment. Causes of gallstones vary, and risk factors include female gender, obesity, crash dieting, and some medications. There are a variety of treatments for gallstones depending on the severity of the condition.
GastritisGastritis is an irritation or inflammation of the lining of the stomach caused by a variety of things such as medications, supplements, medical and surgical conditions, infections, stress, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Symptoms of gastritis include pain in the upper portion of the abdomen, belching, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and a feeling of fullness. Treatment of gastritis depends upon the cause.
Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) Symptoms, Transmission, Contagious, and CureGastroenteritis (stomach flu) is most commonly caused by viruses and bacteria like Norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, parvovirus, and Astrovirus. Bacteria causing gastroenteritis include Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, salmonella, shigella, Campylobacter, and C. difficile. Other causes may be due to chemical toxins. The stomach flu is contagious because it caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. You get the stomach flu from contaminated food and drinks from poor hygiene (not washing your hands after using the toilet). Common symptoms of the stomach flu are; mild to moderate diarrhea, abdominal cramping, abdominal bloating,and low grade fever. Home remedies to treat the stomach flu include rest and hydration to avoid dehydration. Over-the-counter or prescription medicine may be necessary to treat the signs and symptoms of the stomach flu (gastroenteritis). The stomach flu can be prevented by using proper hygiene when using the bathroom.
Hernia (Types, Symptoms, and Surgery)A hernia results when the contents of a body cavity bulge out of their normal area. There are many types of hernia, including inguinal, femoral, umbilical, incisional, Spigelian, obturator, and epigastric hernias. Hernias may be caused by coughing, obesity, heavy lifting, straining, fluid in the abdominal cavity, or chronic lung disease. Symptoms and signs include a lump or bulge, pain, and possible fever. Hernias are generally surgically repaired.
Kidney StonesThe kidney filters waste products and excess water from the body. Sometimes, because of factors that include heredity, diet, and medications, waste products crystallize in the kidney, forming stones. Symptoms and signs include severe pain, sweating, nausea, vomiting, infection, blood in the urine, and others. Treatment includes medications, fluids, and other procedures.
Ovarian CystsThere are several different types of ovarian cysts (noncancerous growths). Follicular, corpus luteum, hemorrhagic, dermoid, endometrioid (endometriomas), polycystic-appearing ovary, and cystadenoma. There are a variety of causes of ovarian cysts. Some are previous history, irregular menses, increased upper body fat, early menses, infertility, hypothyroidism, or side effect of medication. Symptoms include lower abdominal pain, pain after sex, urination, or bowel movements, nausea, or vomiting. Treatment depends upon the cause of the ovarian cyst.
Pancreatic CancerPancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers, one of the most non-responsive to treatment, and one of the hardest to diagnose; in one recent year, 84 % of those diagnosed in the U.S. died of the disease. It affects the pancreas, which is a crucial abdominal organ that produces insulin to maintain blood sugar, and it performs other functions crucial to digestion and metabolism.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of a woman's reproductive organs (cervicitis, salpingitis, endometritis, and peritonitis) is an STD caused by either the Chlamydia trachomatis or Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. Symptoms of PID include abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, heavy vaginal discharge, painful urination, or painful intercourse. Treatment is generally with antibiotics or surgery.
Peptic UlcerUlcers are caused by stomach acid which has eaten away at part of the inner lining of the digestive system. "Peptic" describes the location of an ulcer in the stomach or upper small intestine. Causes of peptic ulcers include NSAIDs, physical or emotional stress, cigarette smoking, radiation therapy, caffeine, and H. pylori infection. Symptoms of peptic ulcer include abdominal pain, gnawing or burning pain that may be felt in the back. The pain from peptic ulcer may last from a few minutes to a few hours. Treatment of peptic ulcer depends upon the cause.
Stomach Pain (Abdominal Pain) in ChildrenAbdominal pain in children can range from trivial to life-threatening. Symptoms of abdominal pain range from vomiting, diarrhea, fever, groin pain, urinary problems, or skin rash. The location of the abdominal pain may be around the belly button, occurs only at night, while eating. The pain pain also may be intermittent. Treatment of abdominal pain in children is depends on the cause. Possible causes of abdominal pain in children include infections, food related (food allergy or food poisoning), poisoning from medication, food, household products, appendicitis, diabetes, or spider bites.
Ulcerative ColitisUlcerative colitis (UC) is an acute or chronic inflammation of the membranes that line the colon. Symptoms of UC include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency for a bowel movement, fever, fatigue, and lack of appetite. Treatment for UC include medication and lifestyle changes. On occasion, surgery may be a necessary treatment for ulcerative colitis.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.