Abdominal Pain (cont.)

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What causes abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain is caused by inflammation (for example, appendicitis, diverticulitis, colitis), by stretching or distention of an organ (for example, obstruction of the intestine, blockage of a bile duct by gallstones, swelling of the liver with hepatitis), or by loss of the supply of blood to an organ (for example, ischemic colitis).

To complicate matters, however, abdominal pain also can occur without inflammation, distention or loss of blood supply. An important example of this latter type of pain is the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is not clear what causes the abdominal pain in IBS, but it is believed to be due either to abnormal contractions of the intestinal muscles (for example, spasm) or abnormally sensitive nerves within the intestines that give rise to painful sensations inappropriately (visceral hyper-sensitivity). These latter types of pain are often referred to as functional pain because no recognizable (visible) causes for the pain have been found - at least not yet.

How is the cause of abdominal pain diagnosed?

Doctors determine the cause of abdominal pain by relying on:

  1. characteristics of the pain,
  2. findings on physical examination,
  3. laboratory, radiological, and endoscopic testing, and
  4. surgery.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/1/2014

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Abdominal Pain - Length Symptoms Lasted Question: How long did the symptoms of your abdominal pain last? Was there anything in particular that helped with pain/symptom relief?
Abdominal Pain - Causes Question: What do you think was the cause of your abdominal pain?
Abdominal Pain - Test Question: Please share your abdominal pain diagnosis experience.
Abdominal Pain - IBS Question: Is your abdominal pain due to IBS? If so, how was it diagnosed?

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