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Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a very common GI complaint.  Anytime the abdomen hurts, it will naturally seem very serious, and will be concerning and worrisome until the cause is known.  Therefore, it is important for the doctor to try to get as much historical information, examine the patient and then get necessary tests to figure out whether the pain is serious or not.  All pain is a warning signal, but it may not be due to a serious cause, and that is the most important thing for the patient and doctor to appreciate.

One of the most common causes of abdominal pain is intestinal spasm.  This can occur with food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, or any number of other illnesses.  This is usually cramping pain, worse after eating, and improving somewhat after a bowel movement.

Other types of pain are burning quality (like with an ulcer), sharp/stabbing (i.e. appendicitis, spasms) dull, aching, intermittent, and constant.  It is not the purpose in this venue to articulate all of the possibilities associated with each type of pain, but rather to advise the patient to seek medical care from a specialist, as the cause of the pains can be difficult to distinguish, and may require lab work, x-rays and endoscopy to make a diagnosis.

The most common maladies to cause abdominal pain are: appendicitis, diverticulitis, infectious colitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, ruptured ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, ischemaic colitis, constipation, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and kidney problems.  Other less common problems are not mentioned.

Evaluation begins with a history from the patient, and is followed by appropriate testing.  Acute (sudden) problems require consultation quickly.  Chronic less intense pains may go on for weeks or months before the patient seeks medical attention.
In some unfortunate cases, the patient has chronic pain of neuropathic origin, and all tests are negative.  The only treatment may be pain control with medications or nerve blocks.  Pain management specialists are usually brought in for these cases.

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