The location of the pain is a clue to its cause and severity.
Generalized pain occurs over half or more of the abdomen. It can occur with many illnesses and often disappears without treatment. Common problems include indigestion and upset stomach, which often responds to home treatment.
General mild pain or cramps that become more severe over several hours may be a symptom of intestinal blockage.
Localized pain is located in one part of the abdomen. If it occurs suddenly and gets worse, it could indicate a serious problem. For example, appendicitis may start as generalized pain that moves (localizes) to one area of the abdomen. Gall bladder disease or peptic ulcers can cause pain that starts and stays in one location in the abdomen.
Localized pain that gradually becomes severe may be a symptom of inflammation of an abdominal organ.
Cramping is pain that is intermittent or changes position or severity. It is rarely serious if you feel relief from passing gas or having a bowel movement. Cramping can accompany a menstrual period. Generalized cramping is not typically serious unless it gets worse, localizes, or lasts for more than 24 hours.
The duration and intensity of the pain is another clue to diagnosis.
Acutepain develops and resolves over a few hours or days.
Chronic pain is intermittent, or comes and goes. You may feel it for weeks to months, possibly years.
Progressive pain steadily worsens over time and often appears with other symptoms. It is usually serious.
Most abdominal pain does not require a doctor’s care or an emergency room visit. When in doubt, always contact your healthcare provider for advice.
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