What are the signs of abdominal problems?
Abdominal symptoms are sensations and conditions that seem to originate in the belly or belly wall. The digestive tract occupies a large portion of the abdomen and is often the source of abdominal symptoms, although they can also be due to conditions of the body wall, skin, blood vessels, or urinary tract. Occasionally, conditions related to the reproductive organs or the chest can create symptoms in the abdomen.
Conditions of the digestive track are known to cause discomfort, nausea, vomiting, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, changes in stool color or consistency, and bloating. Pain from the digestive tract can be severe or mild, constant or periodic, and may be generalized or located in one specific area. Pain or tenderness that is localized may be due to an underlying organ such as the appendix, gall bladder, spleen, or stomach, whereas generalized pain is more common with gas, indigestion or infection. Serious conditions of the digestive tract, such as intestinal obstruction, intestinal perforation, or ruptured appendix, may cause difficulties with passing stool or severe pain with abdominal rigidity.
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Abdominal symptoms that are severe, persistent or worsening, or that are accompanied by other serious symptoms tend to be the most worrisome.
Abdominal symptoms can be related to a variety of conditions ranging from minor to serious. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe pain that comes on suddenly, the inability to have bowel movements, bloody stool, vomiting blood, abdominal rigidity, breathing difficulties, or pain in the neck, chest, shoulders, or between the shoulders. You should also seek immediate care if you have cancer or if you might be pregnant and have the sudden onset of vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain.
If your abdominal symptoms are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care, particularly if you have pain that is worsening instead of improving. If you have bladder symptoms, a fever, decreased appetite, or unexplained weight loss, you should also seek prompt medical care.
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- Abdominal pain. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003120.htm.
- Abdominal pain syndrome. American College of Gastroenterology. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/gihealth/aps.asp.
- Collins RD. Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2012.