Read below about severe abdominal pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your severe abdominal pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Severe Abdominal Pain Symptoms

Severe abdominal pain is often referred to by the medical term acute abdomen. Acute abdomen represents the rapid onset of severe symptoms that is always the result of an underlying problem. Severe abdominal pain also requires urgent care and immediate intervention.

Along with severe abdominal pain, you may experience:

Also pay attention to the quality and location of the pain. Your pain may be localized and limited to one area of the abdomen. It may be intermittent, or colicky which is a term that describes pain that is sudden and feels like a severe muscle spasm. The pain may feel cramping and give you a tightening feeling in your stomach.

Severe Abdominal Pain Causes Overview

Causes of severe abdominal pain symptoms are broad and the list may seem daunting - making it all the more important for you to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you experience symptoms.

Inflammatory causes:

  • Organ inflammation: Conditions that cause inflammation to the organs of the abdomen can result in sudden abdominal pain that persists and worsens over time. For example, appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix that results in abdominal pain that often starts around the belly button and travels to the right lower abdomen. The pain can be extremely severe and debilitating. Inflammation of the pancreas is pancreatitis and usually associated with nausea and vomiting. Other abdominal organs that can be inflamed causing severe pain include the gall bladder, liver and kidneys.
  • Infection: Bacterial and viral infections that affect the abdomen can also result in severe abdominal pain. The general medical term for an intestinal infection is gastroenteritis. Often the pain associated with these conditions results in vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.

Obstructive causes:

  • Intestinal: Many things can cause obstruction in the intestine that blocks food or liquid from passing through normally. Often fibrous bands of tissue called adhesions will form in the abdomen after surgery or other inflammatory conditions and lead to obstruction. When these adhesions are not treated, they block blood flow (ischemia) resulting in severe abdominal pain symptoms. Hernias and diverticula (bulging pouches in the digestive tract) can also cause such obstruction. Sometimes the intestines can twist on itself causing obstruction in a condition called intestinal volvulus.
  • Stones: Hardened materials of calcium, digestive fluid, and other substances can form and deposit in different organs of the abdomen leading to obstruction and severe abdominal pain. The kidney and gallbladder are parts of the abdomen that are very susceptible to stone formation. These stones not only block but also irritate the surrounding organ resulting in pain and discomfort that can be exacerbated with things like eating or moving.

Reproductive causes:

  • Male: A condition called testicular torsion in males can result in severe referred abdominal pain symptoms. Torsion occurs when the testicle rotates around the spermatic cord. This condition can result in a lump because the twisting can block blood flow to the scrotum. This blockage will result in buildup and swelling that can appear as a lump. Torsion is extremely painful and extremely dangerous.
  • Female : Complications of pregnancy such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy can result in severe abdominal pain in addition to vaginal bleeding. In non-pregnant women, conditions such as ovarian torsion (when the ovary twists arounds it's cord and limits blood flow) as well as ovarian cyst rupture can result in sharp, severe abdominal pain.

Traumatic causes:

  • Direct trauma: Direct trauma to the abdomen such as in a car accident can result in injury and or rupture of the organs. The spleen and liver are organs especially susceptible to rupture during traumatic situations and the resulting blood in the abdomen can irritate the lining of the stomach and further exacerbate pain.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Severe Abdominal Pain

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced severe abdominal pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Gallstones

    Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder. Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver.

    Curable with surgical treatment, but not necessary unless symptoms begin

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, pain in the upper right abdomen, vomiting
    Symptoms that always occur with gallstones:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache)
    Symptoms that never occur with gallstones:
    abdominal pain that improves after passing stools
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Gall Bladder Infection (Cholecystitis)

    Cholecystitis is the inflammation of the gallbladder. The gallbladder holds bile (a digestive juice). Gallstones can form when the bile gets thick, and these stones can block up the gallbladder and cause inflammation.

    Indefinite without surgery

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with gall bladder infection (cholecystitis):
    abdominal pain (stomach ache)
    Symptoms that never occur with gall bladder infection (cholecystitis):
    pain in the upper left abdomen, pain in the lower left abdomen
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Acute Abdomen

    Acute abdomen is the medical term used for abdominal pain that usually comes on suddenly and is so severe that one may have to go to the hospital. Acute abdominal pain can signal a variety of more serious conditions, some of which require immediate medical care and/or surgery.

    The prognosis is variable and dependent on the underlying cause of the abdominal pain.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    being severely ill, severe abdominal pain, fever, abnormally high heartrate, general abdominal pain
    Symptoms that always occur with acute abdomen:
    being severely ill, severe abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Stomach Ulcer

    A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum), which causes pain following meals or on an empty stomach.

    2-4 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, moderate abdominal pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)
    Symptoms that never occur with stomach ulcer:
    pain in the lower left abdomen
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Ovarian Torsion

    The twisting, or torsion, of the ovary around its surroundings. This may result in loss of blood to both the ovary and the fallopian tube. When diagnosed, this condition is considered an emergency and requires immediate surgery.

    Patients are generally discharged home within 24 hours of surgery in uncomplicated cases. The patient follows up with the surgeon 1 week after surgery, and additional follow-up is regulated as needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, nausea, moderate abdominal pain, loss of appetite
    Symptoms that never occur with ovarian torsion:
    diarrhea, pain below the ribs, mild abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

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  6. 6.Ectopic Pregnancy

    Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. The vast majority of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes.

    Treatment depends on how far the pregnancy has progressed but in all cases leads to the termination of the embryo.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, moderate abdominal pain
    Symptoms that never occur with ectopic pregnancy:
    disapearance of periods for over a year
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Ruptured Ovarian Cyst

    Ovarian cysts are common in women of reproductive age. A ruptured cyst occurs when cyst ruptures and releases cyst fluid or blood.

    Outcome depends on severity of illness and treatment used.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, pelvis pain, lower abdominal pain, being severely ill, severe abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Acute Pancreatitis

    Acute pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, which creates and releases insulin and glucagon to keep the sugar levels in your blood stable. It also creates the enzymes that digest your food in the small intestine. When these enzymes accidentally get activated in the pancreas, they digest the pancreas itself, causing pain and inflammation.

    Acute pancreatitis typically goes away after a few days with treatment. Untreated, it can be deadly

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, severe abdominal pain, fever
    Symptoms that always occur with acute pancreatitis:
    constant abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Abdominal Aortic Aneurism (Aaa) Rupture

    The aorta is the major blood highway. Injuries to the aorta can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

    An aortic injury must be treated immediately with emergency surgery. The prognosis depends on how quickly you are transported to an operating room.Recovery time is dependent on the type of surgery. Open-abdominal surgery involves replacement of the damaged section of the aorta by a synthetic tube (graft), which is sewn in place with an open-abdomen approach. It takes a month or more for full recovery. Endovascular surgery is a less invasive procedure, where the synthetic graft is threaded up to the damaged section through an artery in the leg. Recovery time is shorter, but follow-up appointments will be more frequent, as it will be important to monitor for any leaking of the graft.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    being severely ill, nausea, severe abdominal pain, side pain, spontaneous back pain
    Symptoms that always occur with abdominal aortic aneurism (aaa) rupture:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  10. 10.Kidney Stone

    A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney from substances in the urine. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without help from a doctor. But sometimes a stone will not go away. It may get stuck in the urinary tract, block the flow of urine and cause great pain.

    The prognosis for a kidney stone is good, as it is not a chronic condition. Once the stone has passed, the pain will go away. However, if you have had a kidney stone, you have about a 1 in 2 chance of getting another one in five to seven years. This can be prevented by: 1. Drinking more than 2 liters (2.11 quarts) of water a day. 2. Eating a healthy diet with foods rich in calcium such as milk and other dairy products, peas and beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and bony fish like sardines and salmon. 3. Avoiding use of lots of salt in cooking. 4. Eating more vegetables, as they help make urine less acidic.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal or flank pain, nausea, abdominal pain that comes and goes, diarrhea, pelvis pain
    Symptoms that always occur with kidney stone:
    abdominal or flank pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

Severe Abdominal Pain Treatments and Relief

The treatment for many causes of acute abdomen is surgery. If you are stable when you arrive in the emergency room, your medical team will first do an abdominal x-ray or CT scan to get a better idea and look as to what could be causing your severe abdominal pain symptoms.

However, if you arrive and are unstable (symptoms of fever, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness) your doctors may need to conduct urgent surgery in order to explore the possible causes of your pain – whether it be obstruction, inflammation or excessive bleeding. With this exploratory surgery (also called an exploratory laparotomy), your doctors will be able to locate the severe abdominal pain cause and systematically find ways to stop it.

FAQs About Severe Abdominal Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about severe abdominal pain.

When should I be concerned about a stomach ache?

You should be concerned about abdominal pain if you are also experiencing dizziness, loss of consciousness, a rigid abdomen, or pain that worsens severely if an individual is moved. Additionally, blood in feces or vomiting, chest pain, or an indication that you might be pregnant are also concerning.

Why do I have severe stomach pain during my period?

Severe stomach or abdominal pain during your period can be caused by endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that usually lines the uterus migrates to areas beyond the uterus. This tissue grows and sloughs off in concert with the woman's menstrual period. This can cause tenderness, pain during sex, and severe abdominal pain during a period. Alternatively, an ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy in which the embryo is somewhere other than the uterus can cause pain but usually much later.

Why do certain foods cause severe stomach pain?

Certain foods can cause severe stomach pain by causing stomach cramps. If you have an ulcer, foods that require vigorous motion to digest or foods that contain acid can cause severe stomach pain. Additionally, foods that are hard may also cause cramps. Foods that are high in fiber, contain large amounts of lactose, or tough meats can also cause severe stomach pain.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Severe Abdominal Pain

  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.How would you describe the nature of your abdominal pain?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our severe abdominal pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Severe Abdominal Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced severe abdominal pain have also experienced:

    • 12% Nausea
    • 11% Diarrhea
    • 9% Vomiting
  • People who have experienced severe abdominal pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Day
    • 34% Less Than a Week
    • 11% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced severe abdominal pain were most often matched with:

    • 37% Gall Bladder Infection (Cholecystitis)
    • 37% Acute Abdomen
    • 25% Gallstones
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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