Acute abdominal pain is discomfort that occurs for short periods of time anywhere in the region between the lower ribs and hip bones. The pain may be generalized, spreading over at least half the abdomen, or localized to one spot. Cramping pain comes and goes and varies in intensity. The sudden onset of extremely severe pain is often associated with serious health conditions that require immediate treatment.
Your abdominal area is home to a diverse family of organs, including your stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys and pancreas. This can make abdominal pain difficult to diagnose. To get an idea of the underlying cause, doctors generally consider your history, the patterns the pain follows, how long you’ve been in pain and what factors make it better or worse. Based on this, you may be diagnosed with:
• Crohn’s disease
• Indigestion or GERD
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Kidney infection
• Menstrual cramping
• Stomach or intestinal infection
• Ulcerative colitis
• Urinary tract infection
Sometimes pain is caused by something as simple as gas pressure, but in some cases, it may be due to a more serious problem such as intestinal perforation, loss of blood flow to the intestines, bowel obstruction, liver inflammation, cancer or kidney and gallbladder diseases. Heart problems, such as angina and thoracic aortic aneurysm, may also cause you to experience pain in your abdomen.
When to See a Doctor
Pain that appears out of nowhere, becomes steadily worse or goes from generalized to local should be checked by a doctor. You should also seek medical attention if your pain results from trauma or injury, or if you develop one of more of the following symptoms:
• Bloody stool
• Nausea or vomiting that won’t go away
• Yellow skin
• Swollen abdomen
• Abdominal tenderness
• Pain that interrupts daily life
In the event that you’re unable to wait to see your regular doctor, visit your local urgent care center. The physicians there can give you an exam, evaluate your symptoms and perform any necessary testing, such as X-rays or blood tests, much more quickly than the staff in an emergency room.