Pain in the lower stomach or abdomen is a common problem. The pain can be caused by a wide spectrum of conditions, ranging from harmless to potentially life-threatening health problems.
While it is impossible to diagnose the cause of stomach discomfort without medical attention, it is possible to get a feel for the severity of the problem and to determine if your pain is indicative of a deeper problem such as liver disease, by evaluating which symptoms occur with the pain.
Stomach pain can be caused by problems originating in any one of a number of internal organs or organ systems, including:
- the gastrointestinal system
- the liver
- the pancreas
- the kidneys and/or the urinary system
- the female reproductive organs
- abdominal muscle strain
In addition, abdominal pain may not be a result of abdominal problems at all, but referred pain from another condition, such as a heart attack.
This list is by no means a comprehensive collection of stomach pain causes, however they are the most common.
The stomach pain associated with liver disease is generally located in the upper right portion of the stomach, not the lower parts of the abdomen. The pain can be accompanied by a whole host of other symptoms including:
- yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- urine of a dark color
- muscle aches and pains
The general term "liver disease" is actually a catch-all term referring to any abnormal conditions or infections that can affect the liver and inhibit its ability to function. Liver disease can be caused by many things, such as bacterial or viral infections, though the most common cause is through the excessive use of alcohol.
It is often extremely difficult for patients suffering from stomach pain to accurately describe their discomfort to physicians; in addition, descriptions of pain can differ substantially from person to person--one individual's mild ache may be another person's severe cramp.
Physicians utilize five pain categories to help define and specify abdominal pain:
- Whether the pain is of recent onset or has been occurring over a period of time.
- Whether the pain has increased or decreased over time.
- Whether the pain is intense, sharp, dull, throbbing, or intermittent.
- What part of the abdomen the pain is located in.
- An identification of things that tend to make the pain worse or better.
In order to diagnose the exact cause of stomach pain, a physician would begin with a series of tests possibly including a urinalysis, X-rays of the chest and abdomen, an electrocardiograph, and blood tests to check everything from electrolytes to liver function.
To further pinpoint the problem, a CT scan, ultrasound, endoscopy, or colonoscopy may be required.
If you are experiencing sudden and severe stomach pain, seek medical treatment immediately. Acute abdominal pain can often be a symptom of a grave medical condition.
- Photo Credit anatomy.med.umich.edu, blueridgehealth.org, reversingibs.com, biosite.com, healthnews-stat.com
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