Abdominal pain – disease and cause

Abdominal pain - disease and cause

What diseases can cause abdominal pain?

The many nerve connections in the abdomen and the adjacent organs mean that not only pain in the actual abdominal organs such as the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, pancreas or female genital organs are localized in the abdomen, but also diseases that are adjacent to the abdomen:

  • Above the diaphragm, the natural boundary between the abdomen and chest, a heart attack, pleurisy or esophagitis with heartburn, for example, can lead to abdominal pain in the upper abdomen.
  •  Pain originating in the spine or the back muscles can also manifest in the upper and middle abdomen.
  • Pain is joint on the side of the abdomen, originating from the kidneys, and pain in the
  • In addition to intestinal, ovarian or uterine problems, an aortic bulge (aneurysm) must also be considered in older people.

Pain emanating from the abdominal organs must also be scrutinized since, although it is often possible to narrow down the painful area, the close relationship between the organs means that a clear assignment to a specific organ fails. Pain in the upper abdomen can come from the gallbladder or – because of the stomach, the small intestine – as well as from the pancreas or the large intestine. A diagnosis is not possible without further examination methods.


How can the causes of abdominal pain be narrowed down?

Pain can often be localized with careful palpation. With specific movements, for example, the pain can be increased in acute appendicitis. In addition, a thorough anamnesis provides information about which organ the pain is most likely to originate from. Thus, some pain occurs about food intake – with gallbladder pain, pain occurs after eating; with a gastric ulcer, the pain is often worse when fasting.

The type of food can also provide clues: pain after high-fat meals suggests problems with the gallbladder or pancreas. The stool behaviour, e.g. diarrhoeaconstipation, stool colour, is also helpful; a stool test for blood or infectious agents can rule out an intestinal tumour or a gastrointestinal infection, for example.

Abdominal pain in the elderly

The age of the person affected also plays an important role. While abdominal pain in children can be a prevalent and unspecific symptom, even for a common cold or headache, other diseases must be ruled out in older patients:

  • in someone with known cardiovascular disease, e.g. a heart attack or an aortic aneurysm,
  • in patients known to have a “sensitive” stomach, perhaps a food intolerance, as this may worsen over time,
  • in middle-aged people with new frequent abdominal pains and also an intestinal tumour.


Abdominal pain: further investigation

These initial results will prompt the doctor to conduct further investigations. A blood test can clarify whether there is an inflammation in the body and whether, for example, the liver, gallbladder or pancreas are involved in the disease process. The urine test checks the kidneys and the urinary tract. Ultrasound shows liver gallbladder, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidney changes. Even some intestinal diseases can be detected with today’s ultrasound devices.

X-rays and endoscopic gastroscopy or colonoscopy can be used to track down diseases in the abdomen. If a gynaecological disease is suspected, the internal genital organs are palpated and examined with ultrasound. If heart disease is suspected, an ECG and an ultrasound examination of the heart usually help.

If the pain cannot be triggered by hand movements or is related to food intake, muscle tension or spinal problems can be clarified with functional movement exercises. If no organic cause for the abdominal pain can be found with all methods, irritable bowel syndrome may be present.

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