Abdominal Pain Syndrome: Symptoms, Types and More

Keri Tidwell

Man suffering from functional abdominal pain syndrome

We’ve all experienced a stomachache, but have you ever wondered if your abdominal pain was something more?

Maybe you have acute abdominal pain that lasts only a few hours, a day or even a week. Perhaps you have chronic abdominal pain, lasting as long as three months or more. The questions then become, “Is this something I need to be concerned about? Do I need to seek medical attention?”

Acute pain could be caused by anything from kidney or gallstones to food poisoning, while chronic abdominal pain might indicate an ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, or even cancer. The question of whether to seek immediate medical attention depends on your symptoms. Some “red flag” symptoms should prompt an appointment with your physician or maybe even a trip to the emergency room.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, these “red flag” symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Persistent constipation
  • Bloody stools
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Severe belly tenderness
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal swelling

What Causes Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain may be either acute or chronic. Some causes of abdominal pain are bowel obstructions, inflammation, vascular problems, non-abdominal problems like a heart attack or pneumonia, ulcers, urinary tract problems, cancers, chest wall pain or female pelvic problems.

The most common conditions associated with abdominal pain include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome: Approximately 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. The pain is generally recurrent, and patients may experience either diarrhea or constipation or both at alternate intervals.
  • Functional dyspepsia: Pain occurs in the middle of the abdomen above the belly button. The pain may be caused by an ulcer, acid reflux or a tumor. Sufferers often feel bloating and discomfort.
  • Functional abdominal pain syndrome (FAPS): Less common than IBS, FAPS sufferers experience severe pain that is not related to foods they’ve consumed or bowel changes.

To determine the exact cause of your abdominal pain, a doctor will conduct a physical examination, obtain a medical history and possibly run tests including lab work (blood, urine, stool samples), X-ray or CT scan, or an endoscopy.

Based on the findings, the physician will make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan. Treatment options range from medications to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain to surgery.

If you are concerned that you might be suffering from abdominal pain syndrome, contact your physician today for a consultation.

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