Q: What causes lower abdominal pain?
A: Pain in the abdomen area can be caused for various reasons and be attributable to a number of underlying illnesses. Some causes of such pain can be a passing discomfort but others may need medical intervention. Most often, women feel pain in their lower abdomen when having their menstrual period. This is not a cause for alarm as it is a common discomfort which can be resolved with a general over the counter painkiller. However, lower abdominal pain is not only caused by simple things. Pain in the lower abdomen could be a sign of another more serious illness such as appendicitis, bladder issues or kidney related illnesses. By being aware of the possible causes of abdominal pains, it will be easier to decide whether it is a passing discomfort or a manifestation of symptoms related to a serious illness that needs to be treated medically.
Types of Lower Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can generate from any organ within the stomach area. For example, pain can originate from the small intestine, colon, liver, gall bladder, spleen and pancreas. Any one of these organs can produce painful sensations of varying intensity that can be felt in varying areas in the lower stomach. Whether the pain is localized and restricted to a specific area or whether it is generalized can be a sign of the underlying root cause. Below are some of the common types of illnesses which cause pain in the abdomen:
- Lower stomach pain could be due to a stomach virus. Gastroenteritis will cause the gastrointestinal tract to become inflamed. This also causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. Certain viruses and bacteria can enter the system through food or water and thus cause gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is also known as stomach flu.
- Indigestion is another illness which can cause stomach pain. Those who suffer from indigestion pain will experience a feeling of heat or burning pain in the stomach area. Indigestion is triggered by certain foods which are rich in oil and other fatty substances, spicy foods, alcohol and carbonated drinks.
- Kidney stones are another reason for pain in lower abdomen. Kidney stones most often do not cause any pain until the kidney stone moves into the urinary tract and thereby blocks the flow of urine. Excruciating pain in the lower stomach area and in the area where the kidneys are located is the first symptom of this serious condition. If the stones pass through the urinary tract the pain will ease off. However, most often this does not occur and medicines that can dilute the stones needs to be taken or surgical removal of the stone becomes necessary.
- Certain conditions in the reproductive organs of women can also cause pain in the lower abdomen. This may be related to the uterus, which can cause sharp pains. Pains in the Fallopian tubes can be related to fibroids or ectopic pregnancies. In some cases the pain can be related to serious conditions such as ovarian cysts or cancer. Miscarriages too can cause very intense lower abdominal pain, mainly originating in the area above the pelvic region.
- Constipation, diarrhoea or irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, food allergies, colon cancer and appendicitis are other types of illnesses which are associated with abdominal pain.
Signs and Symptoms of Lower Abdominal Pain
There are several signs and symptoms which are associated with pain in the lower abdomen and these should not be ignored. If the symptoms are associated with some underlying illness that is serious, neglecting such symptoms can lead to aggravated medical situations. Therefore, paying close attention to these symptoms will enable a person to distinguish a harmless abdominal pain from the harmful. For example, cramps or pain associated with menstruation can be ignored up to a point. However, severe pain with menstruation should also be referred to a physician. Similarly, if pain is in conjunction with fever, or blood is observed in vomit, urine or stools, it should be referred to a doctor as soon as possible. Sudden pain in the lower stomach areas can be due to an interruption of the blood supply to the colon. Left side lower abdominal pain can indicate bowel problems, the right side can mean appendicitis. Pregnant women who experience severe pain in the lower right or left abdomen without any fever or vomiting should consult an obstetrician/gynaecologist as this could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. Sharp pains with passing of urine and pains that circulate from back of the body to the front pelvic region can be a sign of kidney complications. Knowing these symptoms will help you have a basic idea or the root cause of the abdominal pain being experienced.
Preventing Lower Abdominal Pain
Prevention of lower stomach pain depends on the type of illness it is associated with. For instance, a person with irritable bowel syndrome will be able to prevent pain in the lower abdomen by making dietary changes and managing stress. In addition, fibre supplements and laxatives may be prescribed for constipation. Gastroenteritis although difficult to prevent, can be done by constantly washing hands with anti-bacterial soap, avoiding eating from unhygienic places and by educating oneself on how quickly certain food items spoil etc. Those experiencing kidney stones should avoid certain acidic foods and drink plenty of fluids to avoid the crystallization process of the minerals in the blood stream which is strained by the kidneys.
Treating Lower Abdominal Pain
There are various ways of diagnosing and treating lower abdominal pain. These include the observation of the pain area, the intensity and duration and the other associated physical signs such as bloating of the abdomen. A doctor will be able to conduct a physical examination, laboratory tests, x-rays, or endoscopy checkups to diagnose the cause of the pains. With a proper diagnosis, doctors will be able to treat the pain with the proper medication or advise surgical intervention. Similar to prevention, the treatment of pain in lower abdomen will depend on the cause of the pain. Antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, acid blockers, antacids and antispasmodic medications are some of the medications which will be prescribed for relief of pain. In case of kidney complications, ectopic pregnancies, fibroids or cancers, the need for surgery may arise.
While pain in the abdomen area can result from simple reasons, it can also be due to serious illnesses. If signs and symptoms are detected early on, it is possible to avoid or prevent the conditions from reaching a critical stage. If a serious illness is diagnosed these too can be remedied often with proper medication or surgeries so that abdominal pains can be alleviated completely.