Understanding New and Severe Abdominal Pain
Welcome to our guide, Understanding New and Severe Abdominal Pain.
New and severe abdominal pain always needs to be closely evaluated by a doctor. It is frequently a sign of serious illness. This guide was not designed to substitute for office-based care.
If you are having new and severe abdominal pain, this pain may be frightening to you because of its mystery -- the abdomen contains many important organs that could be the source of your pain. It may seem like a daunting task for a doctor to diagnose the source of your symptom; in fact, there are more than a hundred medical conditions that commonly result in abdominal pain.
Despite the long list of possible causes for abdominal pain, your doctor will be likely be able to narrow down the possibilities to a short list after initial evaluation. Your experience may be less frightening to you if you understand the way that doctors begin to make sense of your symptom, and the reasons for ordering certain tests.
The purpose of this guide is to help you to understand a common way that doctors think through abdominal pain. This guide may also enable you to provide a more helpful medical history during your doctor's evaluation.
This guide was intended for people with new abdominal pain -- pain that has been present for less than two weeks. If your pain has been present for longer or is recurring from previous episodes, please visit our Guide for Recurring Abdominal Pain.
In this guide, we will start by identifying where you feel the pain most strongly. The middle third refers to an up-and-down stripe from the bottom center of your ribs, down through your navel (belly button) and ending above your pelvic bone. The sides of the abdomen refer to the outer one-third on each side of the middle third.
When your body was first forming as an embryo, a part of your development included the "migration" or rearrangement of several of your body organs. The nerves that connected to your organs did not re-wire as the organs rearranged. For this reason, some organs cause pain in a location different from where they are now located.
A specific location of pain in your abdomen is a very valuable clue, but it does not always lay blame on the organs that are located in its vicinity.
Please select the location where your pain is felt most strongly:
When pain is present throughout the whole abdomen, it is usually arising from one of these sources:
1) A problem within the intestinal tract
2) A mineral abnormality, hormone abnormality, or abnormality of blood acidity that can affect the comfort of your intestinal tract
3) A problem involving the inside lining of your abdominal wall (called the "peritoneum") and any fluid that may exist between this lining and the abdominal organs.
If your pain is arising from the third source of diffuse abdominal pain we have listed -- your "peritoneum" -- then this can be a true emergency. Our first questions will help to identify if your problem is likely to involve your peritoneum or the fluid that may collect underneath it.
The peritoneum is a structure that is very sensitive to friction. If the peritoneum is inflamed, it is painful for people to have even minimal movement of their abdomen.
Do you have sharply increased pain if your abdomen is lightly jiggled? For example, do you have pain if someone bumps into the furniture on which you are sitting or lying or sharply increased pain when you cough or sneeze?