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Abdominal pain can be caused by a number of things and can be located in various areas within the abdominal cavity. The abdominal cavity includes the area from the ribs down to the pelvic bone, stretching out to both sides of the body. Pain can radiate from anywhere inside this area and be called "abdominal pain." The organs in this area include the small and large intestines, the liver, the stomach, the pancreas and gall bladder.
Pain in the abdomen that is caused by the inflammation of an organ can eventually lead to colitis, diverticulitis or appendicitis. An organ that becomes stretched, blocked or obstructed will lead to conditions such as a hernia or gallstones. Spasms in the intestinal muscles with no real cause usually end up diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). All of these conditions begin with pain in the abdominal area.
A peptic ulcer, a hole in the lining of the stomach or esophagus, can cause severe pain. Antacids may help, but they only provide temporary relief. Once the antacids are no longer taken, the pain usually returns. Different cancers of the liver, ovaries, pancreas, stomach and colon can cause pain but are uncommon.
Women may experience abdominal pain for several reasons. Menstruation can cause cramping in the lower abdominal area. Other conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause pain in women. Food poisoning can cause severe abdominal pain that is coupled with vomiting and diarrhea. Somatization disorder is a type of emotional disorder with physical symptoms that include pain in the abdomen area.
Not all pain in the abdominal area is severe or needs to be treated by a physician. Constipation can cause pain in the abdomen. A person becomes constipated when hardened stools have difficulty passing through the body. Excessive air in the stomach and intestines can be painful, but these temporary conditions are usually remedied by a person belching or passing gas. There are several different over-the-counter remedies available to relieve constipation and excessive gas.
Abdominal pain can happen suddenly or start out mild and become progressively worse. The pain can feel sharp, as if a person is being stabbed, or it can feel dull, similar to cramps. Sometimes this pain is just the body's way of dealing with a temporary issue and taking care of itself. Persistent or severe pain should always be evaluated by a physician. The location of the pain, the type of pain, and how long the pain has persisted will help with the diagnosis and treatment.