Abdominal Pain

By McBratney, Susan, PhD
By Spader, Catherine, RN

What is abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain is any pain or discomfort that occurs between the lower chest and the groin. Commonly referred to as the “belly,” the abdomen consists of many organs, including the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, esophagus, and numerous blood vessels. Abdominal pain may be generalized, occurring throughout the abdomen, or it may be present in a small area of the belly.

Abdominal pain is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions, such as indigestion, stress, infection, gallstones, inflammation, intestinal obstruction, peptic ulcer, and cancer. Abdominal pain can also occur as a side effect of medication.

Depending on the cause, abdominal pain can last briefly, such as when it occurs from indigestion due to eating rich food. Abdominal pain can also last for a longer period of time, such as when it is due to chronic pancreatitis, stomach cancer, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Long-term abdominal pain may be continuous or occur sporadically.

Abdominal pain can be described as mild to severe, acute, ongoing, or cramp-like. While most people will experience abdomen pain in their lifetime, it is rarely caused by a serious medical problem.

However, abdominal pain that is associated with vomiting blood, bloody stools, dizziness, abdominal distention, fainting, shortness of breath, or yellowing of the skin (jaundice) can be a sign of a serious, potentially life-threatening condition and should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. If your abdominal pain is persistent or causes you concern, contact a medical professional.


What other symptoms might occur with abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain may accompany other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

Digestive symptoms that may occur along with abdominal pain

Abdominal pain may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:


What causes abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain can be from infection, malignancy, inflammation, trauma, obstruction, and other abnormal processes. Relatively mild conditions, such as indigestion and stress, can also cause abdominal pain. Sometimes children say they have a stomachache because they are trying to avoid a stressful or frightening situati... Read more about abdominal paincauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Jul 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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Did You Know?

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