Possible Serious Causes of Abdominal Pain

Pain in the abdomen has many causes. What can feel like stomach pain can come from other areas like the digestive system or other organs in the abdomen. If the abdominal pain you are experiencing is severe, persistent, or unexplained, it is recommended that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Abdominal pain is defined as any discomfort that is felt anywhere in the belly region —between the pelvis and the ribs. While most abdominal pain is usually suspected to be from the stomach, abdominal pain can also come from other organs. Keep in mind that the abdomen houses the following organs:

  • Large intestine
  • Stomach
  • Gallbladder
  • Liver
  • Small intestine
  • Pancreas

In some instances, the pain can also be experienced in the abdomen, the abdominal wall, the muscle or the skin (outer shell). At times, the pain you experience in your belly can also originate from the back, pelvis, or chest. Abdominal pain can also take several forms, including:

  • All over (generalized)
  • In one spot (localized)
  • Severe or mild
  • Sharp or dull
  • Achy or burning
  • Colicky or crampy
  • Intermittent or constant

Common Causes of Abdominal Pain

It is reassuring to know that most causes of abdominal pain are temporary and harmless. In many cases, they are linked to a passing virus, menstruation, or digestion.

Digestive Problems

Pain in the abdomen that you experience after eating can be attributed to the following causes:

  • Food poisoning
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Food intolerances and allergies
  • Gas pain (or gas)


Infection or irritation in the organs can result in temporary inflammation, including:

  • Ovulation pain
  • Menstrual cramps

Other Possible Serious Causes of Abdominal Pain

Other times, abdominal pain can be caused by a serious medical condition that needs treatment. Pain in various regions can indicate the various organs that might be affected or involved. For instance:

Right Upper Quadrant

This area is home to the bile ducts, gallbladder, and the liver. The kidney is located right at the back. Pain in this area is often caused by gallbladder or liver diseases, including:

  • Liver cancer
  • Hepatitis
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Gallstones
  • Strictures and stones
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Gallbladder inflammation

Left Upper Quadrant

This area houses the spleen, pancreas, and the stomach. The left kidney is located at the back of the abdominal cavity. The left lung and the heart are located right above it. Pain in this area can be caused by:

  • Kidney stone
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bile reflux
  • Kidney infection
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Enlarged spleen

Pain referred from the chest can be caused by:

  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Heartburn
  • Pleurisy
  • Angina
  • Pneumonia
  • Non cardiac chest pain
  • Pericarditis
  • Heart attack

Lower Abdomen

Most of the small and large intestines are located in the lower abdomen. Pain in the area is typically caused by gastrointestinal conditions. It is also possible that it is caused by problems in the uterus, ovaries, or ureters. Some of the conditions that can cause pain in the lower abdomen include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Hernia
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Mesenteric lymphadenitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Peritonitis
  • Small or large bowel obstruction
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Colon cancer
  • Small intestine cancer

Left Lower Quadrant

Pain that is specific in the lower left abdomen is typically caused by diverticulitis of the colon or diverticulosis.

Right Lower Quadrant

Lower right abdomen pain may be associated with the appendix. In some cases, it can be appendix cancer or appendicitis.

General Pain

There are also other general causes of stomach pain. Some of the possible causes include:

  • Shingles
  • Stress or psychosomatic pain
  • Muscle strain
  • Visceral hypersensitivity
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Abdominal bloating

Common causes of abdominal pain are often easy to treat. However, even if the pain is mild, it is recommended that you seek medical attention if the pain keeps coming back or keeps getting worse.

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