NZ Woman's Weekly

Abdominal pain: symptoms and causes

Abdominal pain: symptoms and causes

Abdominal pain is extremely common. Often it goes away quickly and there is nothing to be concerned about. However, there are times when you will need medical help. Here’s some advice on what might be causing your sore tummy.

You’ve got a cramp in the centre of your abdomen that comes in waves and is made worse by eating and relieved by going to the toilet.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Irritable bowel syndrome. This is due to the digestive system becoming sensitive to food passing through it.

BUT BE AWARE: Stomach cramps accompanied by a sudden change in bowel habits could be due to food poisoning or a virus such as norovirus, especially if you also have diarrhoea, vomiting and a fever. If you notice a change in habits and also notice blood in the stools and weight-loss, this can be a sign of bowel cancer.

You’re suffering from cramp-like pains in the lower abdomen, which are eased by going to the toilet. These are accompanied by diarrhoea sometimes and bleeding.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Colitis or diverticulitis. Colitis is an inflammation of the colon and diverticulitis occurs when bulges in the colon wall become infected. You need to see your doctor for treatment.

BUT BE AWARE: If women experience this kind of pain deep in their pelvis, it feels dull and heavy, lasts for more than a couple of weeks and they lose weight, it could be fibroids, endometriosis or ovarian or womb cancer.

There’s pain in your upper stomach or gullet.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Heartburn. This is due to acid from the stomach travelling into the sensitive lining of the gullet, causing burns. Anti-heartburn medication can help.

BUT BE AWARE: If the pain doesn’t ease, it is difficult to swallow and you have unexplained weight-loss, you should see your doctor to rule out other possible causes like gastric or oesophagael cancer.

You’ve got discomfort in the top right abdomen, under the ribs. It is sudden and intense, and can come on after eating fatty or creamy meals.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Gallstones. These are small stones made of cholesterol that can be trapped in the gall bladder. See your doctor.

BUT BE AWARE: If you have a history of gallstones, become jaundiced and have a high fever, you should get your doctor to check for gall bladder cancer.

You’re experiencing constant and severe pain in the centre of the abdomen that after a few hours moves to the lower right-hand side of the tummy. You may also feel nauseous and have a fever.

POSSIBLE CAUSE: Appendicitis. See your doctor straightaway. If it is an inflamed appendix, it will need to be removed.

BUT BE AWARE: If the pain becomes intense and your heart starts to race you may have a burst appendix and peritonitis. Get medical help immediately.

New Zealand Woman's Weekly Dec-1-2014-cover

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