Chronic Abdominal Pain

What is chronic abdominal pain?

Chronic abdominal pain is defined as continuous or intermittent abdominal discomfort lasting for at least 6 months

What are the causes?

The specific cause of chronic abdominal pain is often difficult to determine. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, coming and going but not necessarily worsening over time. Conditions that may cause chronic abdominal pain include:

  • Angina (reduced blood flow to the heart)
  • Celiac disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Gallstones
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  • Mittelschmerz (pain associated with ovulation)
  • Nonulcer stomach pain
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — infection of the female reproductive organs
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Strained or pulled abdominal muscle
  • Ulcerative colitis

What are the symptoms?

If your abdominal pain is severe or recurrent or if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider as soon as possible:

  • Fever
  • Inability to keep food down for more than 2 days
  • Any signs of dehydration
  • Inability to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting
  • Painful or unusually frequent urination
  • The abdomen is tender to the touch
  • The pain is the result of an injury to the abdomen
  • The pain lasts for more than a few hours

What are the treatments?
Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. Treatments can range from medications for inflammation, GERD, or ulcers, to antibiotics for infections, to changes in personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages. In some cases, such as appendicitis and a hernia, surgery may be necessary.

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