Covers symptoms and possible causes of abdominal pain, such as peptic ulcer disease, indigestion, appendicitis, or stomach flu. Includes interactive tool to help you decide when to call a doctor. Offers home treatment tips.
Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older
The cause of abdominal problems can be hard
to pinpoint. Sometimes minor and serious abdominal problems start with the same
symptoms. Fortunately, most abdominal problems are minor, and home treatment is
all that is needed.
Many times the exact
cause of abdominal pain is hard to find. The severity of your pain, its
location, and other symptoms you have may help determine what is causing the
Generalized pain occurs in half of the
abdomen or more. Generalized pain can occur with many different illnesses and
will usually go away without medical treatment.
an upset stomach are common problems that can cause
generalized pain. Home treatment may help relieve some of the discomfort.
Generalized mild pain or crampy pain that becomes more severe over several
hours may be a symptom of a blockage of the intestines (bowel obstruction).
Localized pain is located in one area
of the abdomen. Localized pain that comes on suddenly and gets worse is more
likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. The pain of
appendicitis may start as generalized pain, but it
often moves (localizes) to one area of the abdomen. The pain from gallbladder
peptic ulcer disease often starts in one area of the
abdomen and stays in that same location. Localized pain that gradually becomes
more severe may be a symptom of inflammation of an abdominal
Cramping is a type of pain that comes and goes (intermittent) or
that changes in position or severity. Cramping is rarely serious
if it is relieved by passing gas or a stool. Many women have cramping pain with
their menstrual periods. Generalized cramping pain is usually not a cause for
concern unless it gets worse, lasts for longer than 24 hours, or localizes.
Cramping that starts suddenly with diarrhea or other minor health problems can
be quite painful but is usually not serious.
Occasionally, severe pain that comes on suddenly may be a
symptom of a rupture of the stomach or intestines (perforation),
torsion of the testicle or
gallbladder disease, or blood vessel problems, such as
aortic aneurysm. The pain caused by appendicitis or
gallbladder disease may increase when you move or cough. Pain that increases
with movement or coughing and does not appear to be caused by strained muscles
is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. A visit to a doctor is usually needed when
severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly, or when new and
different mild pain slowly becomes more severe over several hours or
After a minor
abdominal injury, pain, nausea, or vomiting may occur
but often gets better in a few minutes. Pain and other symptoms that continue,
increase, or develop following an injury may mean an abdominal organ has been
medicines can cause abdominal pain. Some medicines
also cause side effects, such as constipation, that can make abdominal pain
Specific abdominal symptoms have been linked to ovarian cancer. These symptoms include abdominal or
pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or bloating, and trouble eating or
feeling full quickly. If you have one or more of these symptoms, and it occurs almost daily for more than 2 or 3 weeks, talk with your doctor.
Blood in the stool can come from
anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending
on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright
red, reddish brown, or black like tar.
A little bit of bright red
blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of
the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a
stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of stool. Diarrhea
medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black.
Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark
blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
If you take a medicine that affects the blood's ability to clot, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), or clopidogrel (Plavix), it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
You can get dehydrated when
you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For
You may feel tired and edgy (mild dehydration), or
you may feel weak, not alert, and not able to think clearly (severe
You may pass less urine than usual (mild
dehydration), or you may not be passing urine at all (severe
An illness plan for people with diabetes usually covers things like:
How often to test blood sugar and what the target
Whether and how to adjust the dose and timing of insulin
or other diabetes medicines.
What to do if you have trouble keeping
food or fluids down.
When to call your doctor.
The plan is designed to help keep your diabetes in control even
though you are sick. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can cause
It is easy for your diabetes to become out of control when
you are sick. Because of an illness:
Your blood sugar may be too high or too
You may not be able take your diabetes medicine (if you are
vomiting or having trouble keeping food or fluids down).
not know how to adjust the timing or dose of your diabetes
You may not be eating enough or drinking enough
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and
arrange for care.
If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have
one, seek care in the next hour.
You do not need to call an
You cannot travel safely either by driving
yourself or by having someone else drive you.
You are in an area
where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause
belly pain or cramping. A few examples are:
Aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), and
naproxen (such as
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Make an appointment to see your doctor in the
next 1 to 2 weeks.
If appropriate, try home treatment while you
are waiting for the appointment.
If symptoms get worse or you have
any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Feeling very dizzy or
lightheaded, like you may pass out.
Feeling very weak or having
Not feeling alert or able to think clearly. You
may be confused, restless, fearful, or unable to respond to questions.
Problems After Delivery of Your Baby
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild,
think about these issues:
With a high fever:
You feel very hot.
It is likely one of
the highest fevers you've ever had. High fevers are not that common, especially
With a moderate fever:
You feel warm or hot.
You know you have
With a mild fever:
You may feel a little warm.
you might have a fever, but you're not sure.
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it.
For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high,
moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth) temperature
104 °F (40 °C) and
100.4 °F (38 °C) to
103.9 °F (39.9 °C)
100.3 °F (37.9 °C) and
Ear or rectal temperature
105 °F (40.6 °C) and
101.4 °F (38.6 °C) to
104.9 °F (40.5 °C)
101.3 °F (38.5 °C) and
Armpit (axillary) temperature
High: 103°F (39.5°C) and higher
99.4 °F (37.4 °C) to
102.9 °F (39.4 °C)
Mild: 99.3°F (37.3°C) and lower
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease,
Long-term alcohol and drug
Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
Medicines taken after organ transplant.
having a spleen.
Pain in adults and older children
Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain
is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and
can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your
normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days.
Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's
Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Severe dehydration means:
Your mouth and eyes may be extremely
You may pass little or no urine for 12 or more
You may not feel alert or be able to think
You may be too weak or dizzy to stand.
Moderate dehydration means:
You may be a lot more thirsty than
Your mouth and eyes may be drier than usual.
pass little or no urine for 8 or more hours.
You may feel dizzy
when you stand or sit up.
Mild dehydration means:
You may be more thirsty than usual.
You may pass less urine than usual.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
After you call
911 , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2
to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Symptoms of a heart attack may
Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
Nausea or vomiting.
Pain, pressure, or a
strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both
shoulders or arms.
Lightheadedness or sudden
A fast or irregular heartbeat.
The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is that
you're having a heart attack. Chest pain or pressure is the most common
symptom, but some people, especially women, may not notice it as much as other
symptoms. You may not have chest pain at all but instead have shortness of breath, nausea, numbness,
tingling, or a strange feeling in your chest or other areas.
Most of the time, abdominal pain
improves with home treatment and you do not need a visit to a doctor. Specific home treatment for abdominal pain often depends on the
symptoms you have along with the pain, such as diarrhea or nausea and
If you have mild abdominal pain without other symptoms,
try the following:
Rest until you are feeling
Drink plenty of fluids to prevent
dehydration. You may find that taking small, frequent
sips of a beverage is easier on your stomach than trying to drink a whole glass
at once. Do not drink carbonated or caffeinated drinks, such as soda pop, tea,
Try eating several small meals instead of 2 or 3 large
ones. Eat mild foods, such as rice, dry toast or crackers, bananas, and
applesauce. Do not eat spicy foods, other fruits, alcohol, and drinks that have
caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms have gone away.
eat foods that are high in fat. Foods high in fat may increase your abdominal
Do not use aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines may irritate your
stomach and increase your pain.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.