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Just about everybody at one point or another will experience abdominal pain. Most of the causes are not serious and can be readily diagnosed and treated. However, pain can also be a sign of a serious illness. It’s important to be able to recognize symptoms that are severe and know when to call a doctor.
Whether it is a mild stomach ache, sharp pain, or stomach cramps, abdominal pain has numerous causes. These include:
If your abdominal pain is severe or if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible:
These symptoms can be an indication of an internal problem that requires treatment as soon as possible.
Because there are so many potential causes of abdominal pain, your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, discuss with you the type of symptoms you are experiencing, and ask you several related questions about the pain you are feeling. These questions may include:
Once an initial evaluation has been completed, your doctor may have you undergo some tests to help him or her diagnose your pain. These may include stool or urine tests, blood tests, barium swallows or enemas, an endoscopy, X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan.
Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. This can range from medications for inflammation, GERD, or ulcers, to antibiotics for infections, to changes in personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages. In some cases such as appendicitis and a hernia, surgery is necessary.