What is abdominal pain?

Abdominal Pain
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Abdominal pain: Overview

Abdominal pain has many possible causes. Some aren't serious and get better on their own in a few days. Others need more testing and treatment. If your pain continues or gets worse, you need to be rechecked and may need more tests to find out what is wrong. You may need surgery to correct the problem.

Don't ignore new symptoms, such as fever, nausea and vomiting, urination problems, pain that gets worse, and dizziness. These may be signs of a more serious problem. If you are not getting better, you may need more tests or treatment.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Abdominal Pain in Children

Abdominal quadrants and regions in a child

Generalized pain occurs in two or more sections of the abdomen.

Localized pain is confined to or is most intense in one section of the abdomen. Localized pain that comes on suddenly and gets steadily worse may mean a problem with an underlying organ. A serious problem may be present if other symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or fever, develop after the abdominal pain started. Localized pain is also more worrisome if the pain starts in more than one area of the abdomen (generalized) and then becomes localized.

How can you care for abdominal pain?

  • Rest until you feel better.
  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • When you feel like eating, start with small amounts. Do not have alcohol, caffeine, or spicy, hot, or high-fat foods for a day or two.
  • Avoid anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). These can cause stomach upset. Talk to your doctor if you take daily aspirin for another health problem.

What injuries can cause abdominal pain?

Blunt abdominal injuries, such as from a fall or a blow to the stomach, can cause severe bruising of the abdominal wall and bleeding from or rupture of the internal organs. These types of injuries are often caused by falls from a significant height. They can also be caused by car, bike, sledding, or skiing crashes in which the victim is thrown against an object or to the ground. Physical abuse is another possible cause of these injuries in children or adults.

Penetrating injuries result when a sharp object, such as a knife, or a projectile, such as a bullet, breaks through the wall of the belly. The risk of infection, bleeding, and organ damage is high if the object goes deep enough to enter the abdominal cavity.

After a minor injury to the belly, pain, nausea, or vomiting may occur. These symptoms usually improve within a short time. Pain and other symptoms that continue, increase, or develop after an injury may be a sign of organ damage.

Abdominal pain: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have severe belly pain.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain gets worse, especially if it becomes focused in one area of your belly.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • Your stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • You have unexpected vaginal bleeding.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
    • Pain when you urinate.
    • Urinating more often than usual.
    • Blood in your urine.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.