Acute Abdominal Pain
(Severe Stomach Ache; Abdominal Cramps)
Acute abdomen is sudden and severe pain in the belly. It can be a sign of a larger problem.
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There are many causes for abdominal pain, such as:
Inflammation in the:
Health problems, such as:
- An infection or abscess
- Peptic ulcer
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Kidney stones
- Ruptured or leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm
Other problems such as:
- Blockage in the small or large intestine
- Lack of blood flow to the organs in the belly
- Menstrual cramps
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease—inflammation around the organs in the pelvis because of an infection
- Miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
The above problems raise a person's risk of having abdominal pain.
The symptoms a person has will depend on the cause. Common ones are:
- Severe pain, swelling, or tenderness in the upper, middle, or lower part of the belly
- Muscles in the belly that contract without control or are very tense
The doctor will ask about symptoms, pain, and past health. A physical exam will be done. This will involve checking the pelvis and rectum.
Other tests may include:
Sometimes emergency treatment is needed.
The goal of treatment is to ease pain and treat what is causing it. Options may be:
- Diet or lifestyle changes
- Medicines, such as pain relievers
Acute abdomen cannot always be prevented. It has many causes.
- Abdominal pain (stomach pain), short-term. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/symptom/abdominal-pain-stomach-pain-short-term.
- Acute abdominal pain in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/acute-abdominal-pain-in-adolescents-approach-to-the-patient.
- Cartwright S, Knudson M. Diagnostic imaging of acute abdominal pain in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91(7):452-459.
- Raymond M, Marsicovetere P, et al. Diagnosing and managing acute abdominal pain in children. JAAPA. 2022;35(1):16-20.
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