Abdominal Pain

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Pain in the belly (abdomen) can come from conditions affecting a variety of organs. The abdomen is an anatomical area that is bounded by the lower margin of the ribs above, the pelvic bone (pubic ramus) below, and the flanks on each side. Although abdominal pain can arise from the tissues of the abdominal wall that surround the abdominal cavity (for example, skin and abdominal wall muscles), the term abdominal pain generally is used to describe pain originating from organs within the abdominal cavity (for example, beneath the skin and muscles). These organs include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Occasionally, pain may be felt in the abdomen even though it is arising from organs that are close to but not within the abdominal cavity, for example, the lower lungs, the kidneys, and the uterus or ovaries. This latter type of pain is called "referred" pain because the pain, though originating outside the abdomen, is being referred to (felt) in the abdominal area.

Abdominal pain can be acute and sudden in onset, or the pain can be chronic and longstanding. Abdominal pain may be minor and of no great significance, or it can reflect a major problem involving one of the organs in the abdomen. The characteristics of the pain -- location, timing, duration, etc. are important in diagnosing its cause. Persisting abdominal pain should be evaluated by a physician.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/21/2012

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REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

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      In This Article
      Marfan Syndrome Article
      • Marfan syndrome facts*
      • What is Marfan syndrome?
      • What are the symptoms of Marfan syndrome?
      • What causes Marfan syndrome?
      • How is Marfan syndrome diagnosed?
      • What types of doctors treat Marfan syndrome?
      • What treatment options are available for Marfan syndrome?
      • What are some of the emotional and psychological effects of Marfan syndrome?
      • What research is being conducted on Marfan syndrome?
      • Where can people find additional information about Marfan syndrome?
    • Microscopic Colitis (Lymphocytic Colitis and Collagenous Colitis) Microscopic colitis (lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis) is a disease of inflammation of the colon. Microscopic colitis...learn more »
      In This Article
      Microscopic Colitis (Lymphocytic Colitis and Collagenous Colitis) Article
      • What is colitis?
      • What diseases are not colitis?
      • What is microscopic colitis?
      • What causes microscopic colitis?
      • What are the symptoms of microscopic colitis?
      • How common is microscopic colitis and who is at risk?
      • When should I seek medical care for microscopic colitis?
      • How is microscopic colitis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for microscopic colitis?
      • Can microscopic colitis be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis of microscopic colitis?
    • Mucormycosis Mucormycosis (zygomycosis) is a fungal infection caused by Zygomycetes. Symptoms and signs include fever, headache, coughing,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Mucormycosis Article
      • Mucormycosis (zygomycosis) facts
      • What is mucormycosis?
      • What causes mucormycosis?
      • What are risk factors for mucormycosis?
      • What are symptoms and signs of mucormycosis?
      • How is mucormycosis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment of mucormycosis?
      • What are complications of mucormycosis?
      • What is the prognosis of mucormycosis?
      • Can mucormycosis be prevented?
      • What research is being done on mucormycosis?
      • Where can people find more information on mucormycosis?
    • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, a vital part of the body's immune system. Symptoms include swollen...learn more »
      In This Article
      Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Article
      • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma facts
      • What is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
      • What causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
      • What are risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
      • What are symptoms and signs of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
      • How is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosed?
      • What are the types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and how is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma staging determined?
      • What is the treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
      • What is the prognosis and survival rate for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
      • Where can people find more information about non-Hodgkin's lymphoma?
    • Norovirus Infection Norovirus infection causes stomach flu, or gastroenteritis. It's a very contagious illness with symptoms that include nausea and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Norovirus Infection Article
      • Norovirus infection facts
      • What is a norovirus?
      • What causes a norovirus infection? How are norovirus infections transmitted?
      • What are norovirus infection symptoms and signs in adults, children, and babies?
      • What is the incubation period for a norovirus infection? How long are people infected with norovirus contagious?
      • How is a norovirus infection diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for norovirus infections in adults, children, and babies?
      • What are possible complications of a norovirus infection?
      • What is the prognosis of a norovirus infection?
      • Can norovirus infections be prevented? Is there a vaccine?
      • Where can people get more information about norovirus infections?
    • Ovarian Cancer There are many types of ovarian cancer, epithelial carcinoma is the most common. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer...learn more »
      In This Article
      Ovarian Cancer Article
      • What is ovarian cancer?
      • Epithelial ovarian cancer
      • Borderline ovarian tumors
      • Germ cell ovarian cancers
      • Stromal ovarian cancers
      • The statistics for ovarian cancer
      • What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?
      • What are ovarian cancer symptoms and signs?
      • How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
      • How is ovarian cancer staging determined?
      • What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?
      • What is the survival rate and prognosis of ovarian cancer?
      • Can ovarian cancer be prevented?
    • Ovarian Cysts Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like structures within an ovary. Causes of ovarian cysts are numerous. Symptoms of an ovarian...learn more »
      In This Article
      Ovarian Cysts Article
      • Ovarian cysts facts
      • What is the ovary and what are ovarian cysts?
      • What causes ovarian cysts?
      • What symptoms are caused by ovarian cysts?
      • How are ovarian cysts diagnosed?
      • How can the physician decide if an ovarian cyst is dangerous?
      • How are ovarian cysts treated?
      • What are the risks of ovarian cysts during pregnancy?
    • Pancreatic Cancer Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer has been called a "silent" disease because early...learn more »
      In This Article
      Pancreatic Cancer Article
      • Pancreatic cancer facts
      • What is the pancreas, and what is the function of the pancreas?
      • What is cancer?
      • What is pancreatic cancer?
      • What are pancreatic cancer causes and risk factors?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of pancreatic cancer?
      • How is the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer made?
      • How is pancreatic cancer staged?
      • What is the treatment for resectable pancreatic cancer?
      • What is the treatment for locally advanced unresectable pancreatic cancer?
      • What is the treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer?
      • What are the side effects of pancreatic cancer treatment?
      • What is the prognosis of pancreatic cancer?
      • What research is being done on pancreatic cancer?
      • Is complimentary or alternative medicine effective in pancreatic cancer treatment?
      • Can pancreatic cancer be prevented?
      • Where can people get support when coping with pancreatic cancer?
      • Where can people find additional information about pancreatic cancer?
    • Pancreatitis Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed, occurring when digestive enzymes are activated and begin...learn more »
      In This Article
      Pancreatitis Article
      • Pancreatitis facts*
      • What is pancreatitis?
      • What are the causes of acute pancreatitis?
      • What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?
      • How is acute pancreatitis diagnosed?
      • How is acute pancreatitis treated?
      • What is chronic pancreatitis?
      • What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?
      • How is chronic pancreatitis diagnosed?
      • How is chronic pancreatitis treated?
      • How common is pancreatitis in children?
      • Hope through research
      • For more information about pancreatitis
    • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), aside from...learn more »
      In This Article
      Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Article
      • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) facts*
      • What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
      • What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • How common is pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • Are some women more likely to get pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?
      • How is pelvic inflammatory disease treated?
      • What if my partner is infected with pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • My friend was told she can't get pregnant because she has PID. Is this true?
      • How can I keep myself from getting PID?
      • What should I do if I think I have an STI (sexually transmitted disease)?
    • Peptic Ulcer A peptic ulcer is an ulcer in the lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. Ulcer formation is related to Helicobacter...learn more »
      In This Article
      Peptic Ulcer Article
      • Peptic ulcer facts
      • What is a peptic ulcer?
      • What causes of peptic ulcers?
      • What are symptoms of peptic ulcer?
      • How are peptic ulcers diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for peptic ulcers?
      • What are the complications of peptic ulcer?
      • Peptic ulcer summary
    • Porphyria Porphyria is a group of disorders that affect the nervous system, skin, or both. Porphyria is often an inherited condition that...learn more »
      In This Article
      Porphyria Article
      • Porphyria facts*
      • What is porphyria?
      • What are the types of porphyria?
      • What causes porphyria?
      • What are the symptoms of porphyria?
      • How is porphyria diagnosed?
      • How is porphyria treated?
    • Pregnancy Symptoms (Am I Pregnant?) Pregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, but some common symptoms include mood changes, headaches, lower back pain,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Pregnancy Symptoms (Am I Pregnant?) Article
      • 8 fast pregnancy symptoms facts
      • Pregnancy symptoms in general
      • 13 signs and symptoms of early pregnancy
      • 8 signs and symptoms of later pregnancy
      • 8 options for relief of pregnancy symptoms
    • Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) Primary sclerosing cholangitis or PSC is a disease of the liver. The cause of PSC is not known. Symptoms may include itching,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) Article
      • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) definition
      • What causes primary sclerosing cholangitis?
      • What are the risk factors for primary sclerosing cholangitis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of primary sclerosing cholangitis?
      • How is the diagnosis of primary sclerosing cholangitis made?
      • What is the treatment for primary sclerosing cholangitis?
      • Medications
      • Liver transplant
      • What complications are associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis?
      • Can primary sclerosing cholangitis be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis and life expectancy for a person with primary sclerosing cholangitis?
    • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a tick-borne disease that causes symptoms and signs such as fever, rash, headache, and muscle...learn more »
      In This Article
      Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Article
      • Rocky Mountain spotted fever facts
      • What is Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
      • Where do most cases of RMSF occur in the U.S.?
      • What causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
      • What are Rocky Mountain spotted fever risk factors?
      • What are Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms and signs?
      • How do physicians diagnose Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
      • What is the treatment for Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
      • What is the prognosis of Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
      • Is it possible to prevent Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
    • Rotavirus Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and children throughout the world. Almost all children have...learn more »
      In This Article
      Rotavirus Article
      • Rotavirus infection facts
      • What is rotavirus?
      • What causes rotavirus infection?
      • What are risk factors for rotavirus infection?
      • What are rotavirus symptoms and signs?
      • How is rotavirus spread?
      • How is rotavirus diagnosed?
      • How is rotavirus treated?
      • What is the prognosis of rotavirus infection?
      • Can rotavirus infection be prevented with a vaccine? Are any side effects associated with the rotavirus vaccine?
    • Scarlet Fever (Scarlatina) Scarlet fever, a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, causes symptoms and signs such as fever, rash with...learn more »
      In This Article
      Scarlet Fever (Scarlatina) Article
      • Scarlet fever facts
      • What is scarlet fever?
      • What causes scarlet fever?
      • What is the incubation period for scarlet fever?
      • What are risk factors for scarlet fever?
      • What is the contagious period for scarlet fever?
      • What are scarlet fever symptoms and signs?
      • How do physicians diagnose scarlet fever?
      • What is the treatment for scarlet fever?
      • What are complications of scarlet fever?
      • What is the prognosis of scarlet fever? What are the long-term effects of scarlet fever?
      • Is it possible to prevent scarlet fever? Is there a scarlet fever vaccine?
    • Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Pregnancy (STDs) When you are pregnant, many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be especially harmful to you and your baby. These STDs...learn more »
      In This Article
      Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Pregnancy (STDs) Article
      • Pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, commonly called STDs
      • STDs include
      • What are the symptoms of STDs?
      • How can STDs affect my pregnancy?
      • How can I find out if I have an STD?
      • How are STDs treated in pregnancy?
      • How can I protect myself from STDs?
      • How can I prevent spreading a STD?
    • Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are infections that are transmitted during any type of sexual exposure, including...learn more »
      In This Article
      Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) Article
      • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
      • Gonorrhea
      • Chlamydia
      • Syphilis
      • Genital Herpes
      • Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs) and Genital Warts
      • Chancroid
      • Ectoparasitic Infections
      • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
      • Hepatitis B
      • Hepatitis C
      • Conclusions
    • STDs in Men Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections transmitted during sexual contact. They may be caused by viruses, bacteria,...learn more »
      In This Article
      STDs in Men Article
      • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
      • Who is at risk for STDs?
      • What causes STDs?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of STDs?
      • List of STDs in men
      • Chlamydia
      • Gonorrhea
      • Trichomoniasis
      • HIV
      • Genital herpes
      • Genital warts (HPV)
      • Hepatitis
      • Syphilis
      • How are STDs diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for STDs?
      • What is the prognosis for STDs?
      • Can STDs be prevented?
    • Stomach Cancer Though the cause of stomach cancer is unknown, risk factors for stomach cancer include diet, H. pylori infection, smoking age,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Stomach Cancer Article
      • Stomach cancer facts*
      • What is the stomach?
      • What is cancer, and how does stomach cancer spread?
      • What are risk factors and causes of stomach cancer?
      • What are symptoms of stomach cancer?
      • How is stomach cancer diagnosed?
      • How is staging determined?
      • What is the treatment for stomach cancer?
      • Surgery
      • Chemotherapy
      • Radiation therapy
      • How do I go about getting a second opinion?
      • What are some of the nutritional concerns of stomach cancer patients?
      • What are treatment options for cancer that blocks the digestive tract?
      • What follow-up care is necessary for stomach cancer patients? What about complementary and alternative medicine?
      • What support is there for cancer patients?
      • How can I take part in clinical trials for stomach cancer?
    • Streptococcal Infections Group A streptococcal infections are caused by group A streptococcus, a bacteria that causes a variety of health problems,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Streptococcal Infections Article
      • Group A streptococcal infections facts
      • What is group A Streptococcus (GAS)?
      • How are group A streptococcal (GAS) infections contracted?
      • What diseases are caused by group A streptococcal infection?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of GAS infections?
      • What is invasive group A streptococcal disease? Who is most at risk for getting invasive GAS disease?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of necrotizing fasciitis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)?
      • How are group A streptococcal (GAS) infections diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for invasive group A streptococcal disease?
      • What complications are seen with group A streptococcal infections?
      • Can group A streptococcal infections be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis for group A streptococcal infections?
      • Where can people find more information about group A streptococcal infections?
    • Typhoid Fever Typhoid fever is an illness caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria. The illness is contracted by ingesting the bacteria in...learn more »
      In This Article
      Typhoid Fever Article
      • Typhoid fever facts
      • What is typhoid fever? What is the history of typhoid fever?
      • How do patients get typhoid fever?
      • How do the bacteria cause disease, and how is it diagnosed?
      • What are the symptoms of typhoid fever?
      • What is the treatment for typhoid fever, and what is the prognosis?
      • Can typhoid fever be prevented?
    • Typhus Typhus is a disease caused by Rickettsia bacteria. Symptoms and signs include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Typhus Article
      • Typhus facts
      • What is typhus? Are there different types of typhus?
      • What is the history of typhus?
      • What causes typhus? How is typhus transmitted?
      • What are typhus risk factors?
      • What are typhus symptoms and signs?
      • How is typhus diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for typhus?
      • What is the prognosis of typhus?
      • Can typhus be prevented?
      • Where can people get more information about typhus?
    • Ulcerative Colitis Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding....learn more »
      In This Article
      Ulcerative Colitis Article
      • Ulcerative colitis facts
      • What is ulcerative colitis?
      • What causes ulcerative colitis?
      • What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
      • How is the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis made?
      • What are the complications of ulcerative colitis?
      • What are the treatments for ulcerative colitis?
      • What are ulcerative colitis medications?
      • 5-ASA Compounds
      • Systemic corticosteroids (including side effects)
      • Golimumab (Simponi)
      • What are immunomodulator medications?
      • Summary of medication treatment
      • Surgery for ulcerative colitis
      • Treatment by disease severity and location (based on ACG Practice Guidelines)
      • Are there any special dietary requirements for persons with ulcerative colitis?
      • What research is being done regarding ulcerative colitis?
    • Yellow Fever Yellow fever is an infectious disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Side effects are rare with the yellow fever vaccine....learn more »
      In This Article
      Yellow Fever Article
      • Yellow fever facts
      • What is yellow fever? What is the history of yellow fever?
      • What causes yellow fever?
      • How is yellow fever transmitted?
      • What areas are high risk for contracting yellow fever?
      • What is the incubation period for yellow fever?
      • What are yellow fever symptoms and signs?
      • How is yellow fever diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for yellow fever?
      • What is the prognosis for people with yellow fever?
      • Can yellow fever be prevented?
      • Where can people get more information on yellow fever?
Other Causes of Abdominal Pain
  • Bowel Infarction
  • Bowel Obstruction
  • Ileus
  • Peritonitis
Examples of Medications for Abdominal Pain


Symptoms & Signs A-Z List



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