What is Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain is a broad term used to describe chronic or acute discomfort felt in the abdomen. Occasional abdominal pain is very common and can be short lived or occur over extended periods of time. Fortunately, most causes of abdominal pain are benign.

While pain can arise from the tissues (structures) of the abdominal wall, abdominal pain can also be caused by inflammation or distension of the organs within the abdomen. These organs include the stomach, liver, small intestine, colon (large intestine), gallbladder and pancreas.

When to see a Doctor for Abdominal or Stomach Pain

In general, I encourage patients experiencing severe or persistent abdominal pain to be evaluated by a doctor. While abdominal pain can cause varying degrees of discomfort, it typically is not an indicator of a more serious medical condition. Often, mild abdominal pain that only lasts for a short period of time is simply caused by gas and the body will fix the issue on its own.

TIP: The earlier a digestive condition is diagnosed, the better the chance for recovery. While the causes of abdominal pain are typically benign if the pain is severe it should be evaluated by a physician.

What can cause Abdominal Pain?

It is helpful to think about abdominal pain in terms of its location – lower, upper and generalized pain. There are numerous causes of abdominal pain due to the number of organs located in the abdomen. Some of the more common include:

Abdominal Pain After Eating

Abdominal pain or cramps after eating can be due to a food intolerance, allergy or intestinal obstruction. However, we can’t rule out conditions like diverticulitis, pancreatitis, IBS or appendicitis until you are evaluated by a physician.

Dr. Yepuri recommends that patients experiencing stomach pain after eating should thoroughly document their diet, the location of their pain and when it occurs. That information along with other exams and tests can help narrow down the cause.

Abdominal Pain Left Side

Pain located in the lower left side of the abdomen is referred to as lower left quadrant (LLQ) pain. Your doctor will evaluate LLQ pain by noting the characteristics of the pain coupled with any other associated symptoms the patient describes.

The end portion of your colon and some reproductive organs are located in this area as well. Common causes of LLQ pain are diverticulitis and gas. In women, menstrual cramps and ovarian issues can lead to pain in the lower left quadrant. Minor pain in this area will usually resolve on its own but if the pain persists for more than 3 days you should be evaluated by a doctor.

Abdominal Pain Right Side

Pain in the right side of your abdomen generally resolves after a few days. However, if the pain persists you should see a physician to evaluate for conditions like appendicitis or gallbladder disease.

How does a Gastroenterologist diagnose Abdominal Pain?

Since there are a multitude of causes, your doctor will make a diagnosis by relying on a combination of the following:

TIP: It’s helpful if the patient can characterize their pain by describing how it feels – stabbing, sharp, severe, dull, radiating or some combination of these. This information will help your doctor make a diagnosis.

Abdominal Pain Treatment Options

The final diagnosis will dictate treatment recommendations by your doctor. Common treatments include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Medications