Abdominal pain

Discomfort in the abdomen. Mild abdominal pain is common and is often due to excessive alcohol intake, eating unwisely, or an attack of diarrhoea. Pain in the lower abdomen is common during menstruation but is occasionally due to a gynaecological disorder such as endometriosis. Cystitis is a common cause of pain or discomfort in the abdomen. Bladder distension as a result of urinary obstruction may also cause abdominal pain. Abdominal colic is pain that occurs every few minutes as one of the internal organs goes into muscular spasm in an attempt to overcome an obstruction such as a stone or an area of inflammation. The attacks of colic may become more severe and may be associated with vomiting (see abdomen, acute). Peptic ulcer often produces recurrent gnawing pain. Other possible causes of abdominal pain are infection, such as pyelonephritis, and ischaemia (lack of blood supply), as occurs when a volvulus (twisting of the intestine) obstructs blood vessels. Tumours affecting an abdominal organ can cause pain. Abdominal pain can also result from anxiety. For mild pain, a wrapped hot-water bottle is often effective. Pain due to peptic ulcer can be temporarily relieved by food or by taking antacid drugs. Abdominal pain that is not relieved by vomiting, persists for more than 6 hours, or is associated with sweating or fainting requires urgent medical attention. Urgent attention is also necessary if pain is accompanied by persistent vomiting, vomiting of blood, or passing of bloodstained or black faeces. Unexplained weight loss or changes in bowel habits should always be investigated. Investigation of abdominal pain may include the use of imaging tests such as ultrasound scanning, and endoscopic examination in the form of gastroscopy, colonoscopy, or laparoscopy.


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