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Acute Abdominal Pain

  • What is Acute Abdominal Pain?

    Acute abdominal pain refers to sudden pain in the abdomen (belly). It might be so severe that the person needs to be admitted to hospital. It differs from the common abdominal pain that is linked to minor issues, such as constipation or gas. Acute abdominal pain is a symptom of a serious internal problem that might require immediate medical attention or surgery.

  • There are many causes of acute abdominal pain but the most common conditions include:

    • Abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture – enlarged blood vessels in the abdomen
    • Acute appendicitis – swelling of the appendix
    • Cancer
    • Cholangitis – swelling of the bile duct caused by infection or gallstones
    • Cholecystitis – swelling of the gall bladder
    • Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory disorders of the colon
    • Diverticulitis – swelling of small pouches in the large intestine
    • Gastritis – swelling of the stomach lining caused by drinking too much alcohol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs use
    • Gastro-oesophageal reflux diseases (GERD) – a chronic digestive disease which occurs when the acid from the stomach refluxes (flows back) into the oesophagus (food pipe)
    • Heart attack
    • Hernia
    • Intestinal obstruction – blockage in the intestinal tract
    • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a chronic disorder that affects the normal functioning of the colon
    • Kidney stones
    • Pancreatitis – swelling of the pancreas
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease – swelling of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes
    • Peptic ulcers – open sores in the lining of the stomach, the duodenum (beginning of the intestines) or in the oesophagus (food pipe)
    • Urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney infection, bladder infection
    • Viral gastroenteritis – stomach flu
  • The symptoms of acute abdominal pain depend on the underlying causes but they generally include:

    • Fever
    • Non-voluntary contraction of the abdominal muscles
    • Persistent and severe pain in the upper, middle or lower abdomen
    • Swelling and tenderness in the upper, middle or lower abdomen
    • Tense abdominal muscles
  • Treatment of acute abdominal pain varies depending on the underlying condition. Your doctor will evaluate your condition and suggest a suitable treatment plan for you. This may include a combination of the following:

    • Dietary changes and lifestyle changes to improve your condition
    • Medication to ease symptoms. However, some doctors might delay giving painkillers because the details of the pain can aid in helping find its cause.
    • Surgery for most causes of abdominal pain
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