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Abdominal Pain

What is Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain AKA tummy pain is the pain that you feel in your tummy. Tummy pain usually originates from the internal organs including the stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, kidneys, liver, spleen and small bowel. Occasionally the pain can be coming from the tummy wall itself rather than from the internal organs.

Everybody can experience tummy pain every now and then and this can be normal. You should however take the pain more seriously if the pain keeps recurring or persist and does not subside. Abdominal pain may come on suddenly or have a gradual onset. The intensity of the pain may come in waves (colic) or constant. The pain may last from a few minutes to hours. The location of the pain may start and stay in one location or it may move around randomly or go to another spot. The pain may be accompanied by vomiting, bloating, diarrhoea or even constipation.

What causes Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain may be caused by inflammation of the internal organs and this can be acute (eg. Appendicitis, diverticulitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis) or chronic (eg. Oesophagitis, gastritis, colitis, Crohns disease, chronic pancreatitis). Colicky pain with distention of the tummy may represent bowel obstruction that may be caused by a hernia or bowel adhesions. A very common cause of chronic abdominal pain is irritable bowel syndrome.

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How is Abdominal Pain diagnosed?

Your doctor will take a careful history of your symptoms and examination. The appropriate tests can be organised depending what the findings are. These may include blood tests, ultrasound scan, CT/MRI scan, gastroscopy, colonoscopy and barium studies.

It is important to bear in mind that even with all the modern tests that are available, the causes of the abdominal pain may not be identified. Thankfully the majority of these are usually self-limiting and does not cause long lasting damage.

What treatments are available?

The treatment depends on the cause of the pain. Surgery is often required for treating conditions like hernia, gallstones, occasionally colitis and Crohns disease. The majority of these are often treated by medications and lifestyle changes.

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