If you suffer from chronic abdominal pain, you’ll know it’s made worse by not knowing what’s causing it. And trying tirelessly to pinpoint a cause for the unrelenting abdominal pain is a symptom in its own right.
To make matters worse, taking to the internet to identify a likely cause usually raises more questions than it answers. You hurt, you feel better, you hurt again, and all the while you’re not sure what medicines help or what next step to take.
As with all medical conditions, a proper diagnosis and path of treatment is best determined by a medical professional. But with so much information out there, determining even a “likely” cause can be an exercise in folly.
The truth is that many ailments can result in frequent abdominal pain. Some causes are easily remedied while others may be more serious and require specialized treatment.
Where is the Pain?
The term “abdominal pain” may feel specific to those suffering from it, or may feel more generalized, as there are many organs in the affected area that could hold a key to the cause.
Your stomach, liver, kidneys, intestines, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, and appendix all reside in that general area and one or more of these organs could be the cause of your abdominal pain.
Since it’s difficult to rely on the pain itself as an indicator of the specific cause, we instead focus on additional symptoms to figure out the mystery.
Most of the time, we need not fret too much over abdominal pain. Temporary issues such as gas or acute indigestion tend to be the most common causes. Outside indigestion, however these are some of the most common causes of frequently recurring or chronic abdominal pain.
It’s important to focus on where in the abdomen the pain is coming from, usually indicated by “upper” or “lower” distinctions.
Some people experience acid reflux only after a spicy or rich meal. For others, acid reflux can be an almost daily occurrence, displaying more symptoms than just average heartburn.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may cause frequent belching, heartburn, nausea, a dry cough, and most importantly discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen. If you find that your symptoms abate after over the counter acid reflux medications, you may be on to something and should share your findings with your GI doctor.
Gastroenteritis (Stomach Virus)
Gastroenteritis (otherwise called a stomach virus or stomach flu) is caused by an infection in the intestines and may result from contact with an infected individual or from contaminated food/water.
Symptoms include intense cramps, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. The abdominal pain may be less focalized with gastroenteritis, presenting in both the upper and lower abdomen. The accompanying symptoms, however, are severe enough that you’ll likely seek medical assistance sooner rather than later.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
According to The American College of Gastroenterology, while upwards of 15% of Americans experience symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), only 5%-7% of Americans are diagnosed with it.
IBS is an intestinal disorder causing general abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, nausea, and gaseousness among others. These symptoms can be intense though they normally dissipate drastically after defecation--a sign that IBS may be a potential suspect.
Gastritis is caused by an inflammation of the stomach lining and is most common in patients between 45 and 64 years of age. Gastritis is common among older individuals but rare in younger individuals.
Typically, gastritis symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen along with many of the aforementioned gastrointestinal difficulties. Lifestyle contributors include overuse of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or an overindulgence of alcohol.
Nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and general abdominal pain are symptoms of food intolerance which can make it difficult to identify the specific cause. Keeping an eye on what we eat and referencing how we feel afterwards may help identify the cause.
The most common causes of food intolerance are dairy products, gluten, caffeine, some fruits and vegetables, and even some chemicals common in industrial processed foods.
Even if you haven’t noticed food allergies in the past, it is possible to develop a food intolerance later in life.
Too Many Possibilities
Other frequent causes of abdominal pain include ulcers, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and UTIs. With so many possible causes, we should rely on a proper diagnosis from our trusted physician before deciding on a course for treatment!
Medical West feels your pain.
Abdominal pain is more than aches and cramps--it’s inconvenient, relentless, mysterious, and upsetting to our daily lives. If you’re tired of fishing for answers on the internet or relying on over the counter medication that’s only half effective, it may be past time to consult a doctor and nip it in the bud. To take care of abdominal pain once and for all, visit Medical West’s website today!