Tackle severe abdominal pain
Severe abdominal pain may be due to appendicitis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis or numerous other things
- work out the cause
- find out what to do next
- take the right steps towards treatment
With Dr Morton’s - the medical helpline© you can email or phone a real doctor at any time for more information, reassurance or advice
Abdominal pain may be serious
Never is it more important to speak to an experienced doctor than when you have pain in your abdomen. There are several organs in the abdomen and pain may be coming from any one of them. If you are a woman then gynaecological problems such as ovarian cysts or pelvic infection are a possibility, as well as pregnancy-related problems such as an ectopic pregnancy. Sources of severe gut-related pain include gastric ulcers, gallstones and appendicitis. With pancreatitis, the pancreas is inflamed causing abdominal pain which goes through to the back. The kidneys can develop stones which as they pass down to the bladder cause agony.
Gastroenteritis, food poisoning and IBS may also cause severe pain.
Our experienced doctors will be able to identify a list of possible causes for your abdominal pain by knowing your medical history and asking a few questions such as the location and nature of the pain.
For example, lower abdominal pain may suggest more of gynaecological problem if you are a woman whereas if you are a man it may be due to the bowels or prostate gland. There are also distinguishing features between gallstone symptoms and appendix pain which our doctors will be able to determine.
- where is the pain and does it move/radiate anywhere else
- nature of the pain – sharp stabbing/burning/coming in waves
- sudden onset or grumbling pain that is getting worse
- pain that has come every so often for many months (perhaps related to periods)
- nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, or perhaps severe constipation
- pain when passing urine or passing blood in the urine
- swelling or bloating of the abdomen
- loss of appetite
- unintended weight loss
When you should contact a doctor
It is often more worrying than useful to try to use the internet to identify the cause of abdominal pain. It is important that serious causes are identified quickly both so that the right pain relief can be given and so treatment is started as soon as possible. This may require a visit to hospital and an operation. The clues are always in the story and our experienced doctors will ask the right questions to make a diagnosis.
The symptoms of appendicitis are classically feeling off colour for a day or so, and off your food, perhaps with a bit of diarrhoea, with mild central abdominal pain. Over a day or so the pain intensifies and moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. You feel feverish and nauseated and may be sick. Movement is painful making you most likely to lie still in bed. Colicky pain comes in spasms lasting just minutes at a time and goes completely in between episodes. Kidney stones make people writhe around in pain.
This all sounds very easy to diagnose but unfortunately the story is not always a classic one and the surgeons trying to make the diagnosis in hospital will often be torn between a diagnosis of appendicitis, pelvic infection in a woman, and other things like cholecystitis. Blood tests may help but often they simply show that there is inflammation (
Simple painkillers such as paracetamol can be tried if you are not being sick. If the pain is coming in waves this may be bowel spasm so an antispasm medicine such as mebeverine may help. If the pain is in the upper abdomen then taking an antacid medicine to neutralise stomach acid may help. Gaviscon plus in
- ovarian cancer symptoms
- help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and indigestion
- Manage periods and understand endometriosis