They sometimes have harmless causes that pass quickly, but should not be underestimated, because sometimes serious diseases are hidden behind them.
Read everything important about the most common causes responsible for the pain in the abdomen.
Causes of abdominal pain
Causes of abdominal pain in adults:
- irritable bowel syndrome – with this dysfunction of the intestine, the intestinal muscles tend to cramp; going to the toilet often leads to relief of pain.
- Crohn’s disease – in this chronic disease, the entire intestinal wall (inside, center, outside) becomes inflamed.
- Recurrent urinary tract infection (a burning sensation is usually felt when urinating)
- Menstrual pain – painful muscle spasms that many women feel before and during their period.
The most common causes in children:
- recurrent urinary tract infection
- Fear and worry
Diagnosis of abdominal pain
Type of pain and accompanying symptoms
The patient’s medical history already gives the doctor important information on the possible causes of lower abdominal pain:
Onset of pain If the abdominal pain
starts suddenly, this can mean an unexpected event, such as a loss of blood flow (ischemia) of the colon or the closure of the bile duct by a gallstone (biliary colic).
The term acute abdomen or acute abdomen refers to a usually acute onset of symptoms in many life-threatening diseases in the abdomen.
Appendicitis usually provokes pain in the middle abdominal region, which then moves into the right abdomen, where the anatomical position of the appendix is located.
Diverticulitis causes pain in the left lower abdomen, where mucosal protrusions (diverticula) are increasingly common.
Type of pain
An intestinal obstruction initially causes wave-like, painful abdominal cramps caused by the contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles.
The cramping pain suggests that these are very vigorous contractions.
Duration of pain In irritable bowel syndrome, the pain often occurs changeably, it comes and goes and can last for years or decades.
A biliary colic lasts only a few hours.
In diseases in which stomach acid plays a role, such as reflux disease or stomach and duodenal ulcers, there are very different phases of pain: for weeks or months, the symptoms are very severe, then a period of slight pain follows.
Functional pain can also be changeable.
What aggravates the pain?
What relieves the pain?
Pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome and constipation experiences temporary relief from bowel movements and is associated with changes in bowel habits.
If the patient wakes up at night from the pain, it is probably not functional in nature.
Abdominal pain in men
Three functional systems can trigger pain in the male abdomen:
The gastrointestinal tract is roughly the same in men and women, its structures are located in the lower abdomen and include the small intestine, large intestine, appendix and rectum.
The urinary system consists of kidneys, ureters and bladder.
The male reproductive system includes the prostate and vesicular glands.
In the lower abdomen there are also nerves and blood vessels such as the abdominal aorta. Even organs that are not located in the abdomen can cause pain there because they are transmitted.
The abdominal muscles can be damaged and cause abdominal cramps.
Causes of abdominal pain in men
Diseases that occur more frequently in men:
- Prostate enlargement (prostatic hyperplasia))
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney and bladder stones
- Abdominal aneurysm
As a rule, there is an average high risk of appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome and upper urinary tract infections.
Inflammation in the small pelvis and bladder infections do not affect men.
In acute and violent abdominal pain in men, a hernia or acute inflammation of the pancreas may be behind it.
Treatment of abdominal pain in men
First of all, the cause of the discomfort in the lower abdomen must be determined before treatment can begin.
Problems such as bloating or intestinal irritation can be easily treated with the right medications and by replacing the lost fluid.
In case of infection, antibiotics help.
Serious diseases such as appendicitis, abdominal aneurysm, kidney stones, hernias and prostate enlargement require immediate medical attention.
Abdominal pain in women
Most women suffer from abdominal pain from time to time. Menstrual pain occurs with the onset of the period.
The most common causes of lower abdominal pain are diseases and disorders in the urinary system (bladder or kidneys), intestinal tract or reproductive system (uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries).
urinary tract infections are common and cause burning during urination and frequent urge to urinate.
The infection can spread to the kidneys (inflammation of the renal pelvis or pyelonephritis) and cause a general feeling of sickness, fever and back pain.
Kidney stones may be responsible for very severe pain that extends from the back down to the groin.
Tumors in the urinary system are not common and the doctor will take into account how long the symptoms have lasted.
Bloating is another common symptom caused by an intestinal disorder.
Many people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can cause diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
The pain can arise in the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries.
Pain caused by an ovary typically occurs unilaterally.
Uterine-related pain usually increases during menstruation and is called menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea).
Attention: Although menstrual pain is extremely common, it is not a standard: a healthy woman should not have pain.
Some diseases affecting the reproductive system can also cause pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia).
Pain after ovulation During ovulation, slight pain may occur on the right or left side of the abdomen; this is a sign that the ovary has given up an egg. The pain is bearable and usually does not require treatment.
What serious problems can abdominal pain mean in pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy (extrauterine pregnancy) occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterine cavity, usually in an fallopian tube. This can lead to cramps and other ailments at the beginning of pregnancy.
If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can be dangerous. A doctor should be contacted immediately if any of the following symptoms occur: pain in the abdominal or pelvic region, vaginal bleeding (this may be red or brownish, violent or weak, permanent or changeable), pain that increases with physical activity, bowel movements or coughing.
A miscarriage occurs within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (SSW). Spotting or vaginal bleeding is usually the first symptom, followed by abdominal pain that manifests itself hours or days later.
Bleeding may be minor or severe. The pain can be persistent or cramping, weak or strong, and occur in the lumbar region or as a feeling of pressure in the pelvic area.
Premature birth One speaks of a premature birth when the cervix opens through labor before the 37th week
A doctor or midwife must be contacted immediately if the following symptoms occur in the second or third trimester of pregnancy (before the 37th week of pregnancy):
1. increased vaginal secretion or altered discharge (watery, mucous or bloody – also a slightly pink or bloody colour), 2. abdominal pain,
3. cramps with at least 4 contractions per hour (even if they are not painful),
4. increased pressure in the pelvic region, 5. back pain,
especially if the woman usually does not suffer from it.
Premature detachment of the placenta is a dangerous disease in which the placenta detaches completely or partially from the uterus before the child is born.
The symptoms are different.
The placental detachment can trigger a sudden and significant bleeding, in other cases the amount of blood is rather small.
When the amniotic sac bursts, a bloody fluid leaks.
There may be mild discomfort of the uterus, back pain or frequent contractions, or the uterus contracts and remains hard – such as a cramp or contraction that does not pass.
One may also notice decreased child activity.
Preeclampsia refers to a serious disease in pregnancy that causes a disorder of the blood vessels and can affect various organs, such as the liver, kidneys, brain and placenta.
Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, swollen face and swollen hands after the 20th week of pregnancy.
The symptoms are swelling on the face, eye edges, slightly swollen hands and severe or sudden oedema (water retention) on the ankles or feet.
Severe preeclampsia may include intense upper abdominal pain, severe headaches, blurred vision (e.g. blurred vision), nausea and vomiting.
Urinary tract infections Pregnancy favors the occurrence of any type of urinary tract infections, including kidney infections
Symptoms of cystitis include:
- burning during urination,
- pelvic discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen (directly above the pubic bone),
- uncontrollable and frequent urge to urinate, even if there is very little urine in the bladder,
- cloudy, foul-smelling or bloody urine.
Caution: an untreated bladder infection can lead to a kidney infection and cause premature birth.
Signs that the infection has spread to the kidneys and prompt treatment is necessary include:
- high fever,
- chills or sweating,
- pain in the lower back region or on the side (on one or both sides) directly under the ribs, possibly also in the middle of the abdomen,
- nausea and vomiting; possibly pus or blood in the urine.
Abdominal cramps due to flatulence Abdominal cramps
are often caused by bloating and bloating.
Although this common problem can be very unpleasant, it can easily be treated with medication, e.g. with Buscopan or Duspatal.
Sudden colic with diarrhea Sudden stomach cramps that occur together with diarrhea
are probably caused by an intestinal virus.
This means a viral or bacterial infection in the stomach and intestines.
Even without treatment, the symptoms should disappear on their own in a few days.
Severe stomach cramps and diarrhea (with fever or chills) could be underlying a more serious infection, such as food poisoning.
If stomach cramps and diarrhea persist for a long time, there may be a chronic disease behind it, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).