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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older
The cause of abdominal problems can be hard
to pinpoint. Sometimes minor and serious abdominal problems start with the same
symptoms. Fortunately, most abdominal problems are minor, and home treatment is
all that is needed.
Many times the exact
cause of abdominal pain is hard to find. The severity of your pain, its
location, and other symptoms you have may help determine what is causing the
Occasionally, severe pain that comes on suddenly may be a
symptom of a rupture of the stomach or intestines (perforation),
torsion of the testicle or
gallbladder disease, or blood vessel problems, such as
aortic aneurysm. The pain caused by appendicitis or
gallbladder disease may increase when you move or cough. Pain that increases
with movement or coughing and does not appear to be caused by strained muscles
is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. A visit to a doctor is usually needed when
severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly, or when new and
different mild pain slowly becomes more severe over several hours or
After a minor
abdominal injury, pain, nausea, or vomiting may occur
but often gets better in a few minutes. Pain and other symptoms that continue,
increase, or develop following an injury may mean an abdominal organ has been
medicines can cause abdominal pain. Some medicines
also cause side effects, such as constipation, that can make abdominal pain
Specific abdominal symptoms have been linked to ovarian cancer. These symptoms include abdominal or
pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or bloating, and trouble eating or
feeling full quickly. If you have one or more of these symptoms, and it occurs almost daily for more than 2 or 3 weeks, talk with your doctor.
your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Pain in adults and older children
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it.
For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high,
moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth) temperature
Ear or rectal temperature
Armpit (axillary) temperature
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild,
think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
With cramping pain in the belly:
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
An illness plan for people with diabetes usually covers things like:
The plan is designed to help keep your diabetes in control even
though you are sick. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can cause
Blood in the stool can come from
anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending
on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright
red, reddish brown, or black like tar.
A little bit of bright red
blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of
the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a
stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of stool. Diarrhea
medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black.
Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark
blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
If you take a medicine that affects the blood's ability to clot, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), or clopidogrel (Plavix), it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
You can get dehydrated when
you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For
It is easy for your diabetes to become out of control when
you are sick. Because of an illness:
Symptoms of a heart attack may
The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is that
you're having a heart attack. Chest pain or pressure is the most common
symptom, but some people, especially women, may not notice it as much as other
symptoms. You may not have chest pain at all but instead have shortness of breath, nausea, numbness,
tingling, or a strange feeling in your chest or other areas.
Based on your answers, you need
After you call
911 , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2
to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause
belly pain or cramping. A few examples are:
Most of the time, abdominal pain
improves with home treatment and you do not need a visit to a doctor. Specific home treatment for abdominal pain often depends on the
symptoms you have along with the pain, such as diarrhea or nausea and
If you have mild abdominal pain without other symptoms,
try the following:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Abdominal pain can often be
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to
answer the following questions:
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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