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What are the Different Types of Abdominal Pain?

man writhing in pain, with hand on stomach

Abdominal pain is a common symptom that can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues. The location, duration, and type of pain can provide important clues as to the underlying cause. In this article, we will explore the different types of abdominal pain and what they may indicate.

Sharp, Stabbing Pain

Sharp, stabbing pain in the abdomen can be caused by a variety of conditions, including appendicitis, gallstones, kidney stones, and ovarian cysts. Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and can cause severe pain in the lower right abdomen. 

Gallstones are small, hard deposits that form in the gallbladder and can cause sharp pain in the upper right abdomen. Kidney stones are hard, mineral deposits that form in the kidneys and can cause sharp pain in the lower back and abdomen. 

Cramping Pain

Cramping pain in the abdomen can be caused by a variety of conditions, including menstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and gastroenteritis. Menstrual cramps are a common cause of cramping pain in the lower abdomen, and are caused by the contraction of the uterus. 

IBS is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system and can cause cramping pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. Gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, is an infection of the digestive tract that can cause cramping pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Burning Pain

Burning pain in the abdomen can be caused by a variety of conditions, including acid reflux, gastritis, and peptic ulcers. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and upper abdomen. 

Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining that can cause burning pain in the upper abdomen. Peptic ulcers are sores that form in the lining of the stomach or small intestine and can cause burning pain in the upper abdomen.

Dull Ache

Dull, aching pain in the abdomen can be caused by a variety of conditions, including constipation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and endometriosis. Constipation occurs when stool becomes hard and difficult to pass, and can cause a dull ache in the lower abdomen. 

UTIs are infections of the urinary tract that can cause a dull ache in the lower abdomen, as well as other symptoms such as pain or burning during urination and frequent urination. 

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, and can cause a dull ache in the lower abdomen, as well as other symptoms such as painful periods and pain during sex.

Intermittent Pain

Intermittent pain in the abdomen can be caused by a variety of conditions, including diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease. Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches in the colon become inflamed or infected, and can cause intermittent pain in the lower left abdomen. 

IBD is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, and can cause intermittent pain in the abdomen, as well as other symptoms such as diarrhea and weight loss. 

Celiac disease is a condition in which the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, and can cause intermittent pain in the abdomen, as well as other symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Abdominal pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, and can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues. While some types of abdominal pain may be relatively minor and resolve on their own, others may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms along with abdominal pain:

  • Severe pain
  • Pain that lasts for more than a few hours
  • Pain that is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pain that is accompanied by fever or chills
  • Pain that is accompanied by difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Pain that is accompanied by blood in the stool or urine

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