Abdominal pain in women: when should you worry?
Abdominal pain, or stomachache, is a very generic term for pain in the tummy. The pain can be anywhere between the lower margin of the ribs and the pelvic bone. The location of the pain could be within the abdomen or in the upper, middle or lower part of the belly.
You can hardly find a woman who has never experienced pain in her tummy. All women experience pain in their abdomen on many different occasions due to one reason or the other. Pelvic pain, i.e. pain in the lowest part of the tummy is more common in women.
The causes of tummy pain in women are many. It could be due to inflammation, infection, indigestion, blockage, loss of blood supply to an organ, abnormal growths, etc. The pain can arise from conditions affecting the abdominal organs like stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, intestines, bladder, uterus, etc. Abdominal pain could be due to indigestion, gas, injury, gastroenteritis, gallstones, gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis), appendicitis, pancreatitis, colitis, kidney stones, hernia, etc. Sometimes, pain originating outside the abdomen may be referred or felt in the abdomen.
Pain arising from the bladder or kidney may manifest as lower abdominal pain. All women experience pelvic pain mostly due to a problem with the reproductive system. The most common reason is menstruation. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pelvic infection, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), urinary tract infection (UTIs), genital tuberculosis and ectopic pregnancy are some of the other causes of pain in the pelvic region.
Abdominal pain, most of the time, are not serious. They can be diagnosed and promptly treated.
Trapped wind may cause short-lived dull ache or cramps in the abdomen. Belly pain accompanied with diarrhoea may be a sign of infection of the tummy (gastroenteritis). Dehydration due to viral gastroenteritis can be prevented by intake of sufficient fluids. Bacterial gastroenteritis can be treated with antibiotics.
Constipation may cause bloating or stomach pain and may be resolved with laxatives and other medicines.
Pain in the lower back and abdomen accompanied by burning sensation while urinating, an urge to urinate frequently but passing no or only small amounts of urine, smelly urine and fever could be a sign of cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). Mild cystitis will resolve itself. Some women will benefit with a course of antibiotics.
The size of a hernia and its associated symptoms will likely be monitor over a period of time before surgery is opted.
Some women may feel mild ache or contraction pain lasting a few minutes to a few hours during ovulation. This pain, usually associated with the pelvic region, is called mittelschmerz.
Almost every woman suffers from cramps during those days of the month. There are some home remedies to beat menstrual pain.
Severe tummy pain that starts suddenly and unexpectedly could be a medical emergency. It may indicate a series of problems. See your doctor at the earliest if your pain is continuous and severe, wakes you up from your sleep and aggravates when you move. Tummy pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness and black, tarry stool is also worth worrying about.
It could be the symptom of appendicitis which needs prompt treatment. An untreated inflamed appendix may burst and spill the pus to surrounding areas which can be life-threatening. Inflammation of the tissue lining the inside of the abdomen (peritonitis) could become more severe and require immediate medical attention.
Severe pain in the tummy with a hard lump that can be felt by pressing your belly must be investigated. The early warning signs of stomach cancer are so subtle that may overlap with minor complaints like acidity, constipation, etc.
Pain in the lower abdomen during your periods is quite common. However, dysmenorrhoea or severe menstrual pain needs to be monitored closely. It could be a sign of premenstrual syndrome, fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS/ PCOD), pelvic inflammatory disease or genital tuberculosis.
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is a collection of physical and emotional symptoms that occur a week or two before your periods and usually reduce when your menses start. When PMS occurs on a regular basis with very severe symptoms and you find no relief with the medicines, you may need surgical intervention.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus which usually cause no symptoms. But it can cause persistent pelvic pain if it grows and presses on the adjacent organs or it begins to die and releases pain and fever causing chemicals. Medications can help shrink it in size. Larger fibroids may need surgery. If untreated, they can reduce the chances of getting pregnant. Fibroids can be quite dangerous to a pregnant woman.
In endometriosis, the cells lining the uterus (endometrium) start growing in other organs outside the uterine cavity like ovaries, bladder, etc. Around 10–15 percent of women are affected by this condition during their reproductive years. It is a very progressive and damaging painful condition affecting all the organs in the pelvic cavity. It causes impaired fertility. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for endometriosis till a woman hits menopause.
Stop ignoring irregular and painful menstrual cycle. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS or PCOD) is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women of the reproductive age group. It is a collection of symptoms that manifest together and is commonly seen as a hormonal imbalance in women. Having PCOS puts you at a higher risk of suffering from complications during pregnancy.
Do you have dull, aching pelvic pain that has been present for more than six months? The pain could be a sign of a serious condition called pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS), where the malfunctioning valves in the vein of ovary cause the blood to flow back into the ovaries. Do not ignore it till it becomes unbearable.