Abdominal pain is a common complaint seen by doctors around the world. It can be described as sharp, dull, intermittent or constant pain and originates in between the lower chest and pelvic areas of the body.
The causes of abdominal pain are numerous, but are often due to infections or inflammation in a certain area. The location of the pain helps medical providers narrow down the cause; to help with this process, the abdomen is divided into four equal areas called quadrants. Upper right quadrant pain, for example, can be associated with problems in the liver or gallbladder. The upper left quadrant contains most of the stomach, the spleen and the pancreas. Pain in the lower quadrants is often due to gynecological issues, appendicitis or a problem with the intestines. If a patient can describe the type of pain and where it is located, this can help the health care provider decide on further testing and treatment measures to take.
Most causes of abdominal pain are not serious and can be resolved with medication or diet changes.
Acute abdominal pain, which happens suddenly, is often the result of a stomach virus or gas. Ongoing or chronic, abdominal pain can be often attributed to ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic conditions. However, certain symptoms warrant medical attention. Abdominal pain after an accident or during pregnancy, for example, should always be evaluated as soon as possible. If there is fever present, the abdomen is tender to the touch, or the pain lasts more than a few hours, a doctor should be contacted. Vomiting blood or passing bloody or tar-like stools or breathing difficulties associated with abdominal pain should be considered medical emergencies.