Abdominal Pain (Stomach Pain), Long-term

Ongoing or recurrent abdominal pain (stomach pain), also called chronic pain, may be difficult to diagnose, causing frustration for both you and your doctor. Do your symptoms fit one of the diagnoses described in this chart?

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Does your pain get worse after you eat a big meal?

  • Do you feel pressure in your upper abdomen that gets worse when you bend over or lie down at night?

  • Is the pain relieved by antacids? Is your pain improved by eating? (Peptic ulcer disease could be a potential cause).

  • Does the pain start in your upper middle or upper right abdomen, and is it brought on by greasy or fatty foods?

  • Does your pain get worse when you’re under stress or do you alternate between loose and hard bowel movements?

  • Do you have soft or diarrhea-like bowel movements many times throughout the day AND mucus or blood in your stool?

  • Do you have recurrent bouts of pain in the lower left side of your abdomen along with fever?

  • Do you have bright red blood in or on your bowel movements?

  • Has it been a few days or longer since you last had a bowel movement and do you have to strain when you have a bowel movement? Do you have bloating and/or abdomen distension?

  • Has your appetite decreased? Have you lost 10 to 15 pounds over the past few months without trying?

  • Do your skin or eyes have a yellow color, or is your urine dark, or are your stools turning white?

  • Have you had fever, sore throat, or extreme tiredness? Do you have pain in your upper abdomen, mostly on the left upper quadrant?

  • Do you have abdominal bloating and discomfort made worse by milk or wheat products?

  • Are your bowel movements yellow and/or greasy, and do they float in the toilet?

  • Do you have excess gas that smells foul and you have occasional loose bowel movements?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    This may be HEARTBURN, ACID REFLUX, and/or GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE (GERD).


    Self Care

    Keep a food diary (writing down what you eat and at what time to determine if patterns or certain food triggers are present). Bring that with you to your doctor. Eat more frequent, smaller meals.


  • Diagnosis

    Your problem may be a HIATAL HERNIA.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Eat more frequent, but smaller meals. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed. Don’t lie down right after you eat. Elevate the head of your bed with textbooks, boards, or bricks under the headboard or front feet of your bed to reduce discomfort.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may be from GASTRITIS, an ULCER, or HEARTBURN. All are irritations of the stomach and esophagus.


    Self Care

    Eat smaller meals and use an over-the-counter antacid. If antacids don’t help and/or you find yourself using them more days than not in the average week, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may be a sign of GALLSTONES or CHOLECYSTITIS (inflammation or infection of the gallbladder).


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pain may be from IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (also known as SPASTIC COLON).


    Self Care

    Try a diet high in soluble FIBER for 2 weeks. Take steps to reduce your stress and to exercise regularly. If you don’t get better, check with your doctor.

    Keep a food diary to determine potential triggers or causes.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have CROHN’S DISEASE or ULCERATIVE COLITIS, an inflammatory disease of the colon or large intestine.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. These disorders are treatable.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have DIVERTICULITIS, an infection of small outpouchings or pockets (diverticula) in the colon.


    Self Care

    Any infection of the abdomen can be serious. Call your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    A bright red, bloody stool may be caused by a bleeding HEMORRHOID or a bleeding POLYP, but they can also be a sign of a more serious problem, such as CANCER of the colon.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Your discomfort is probably from CONSTIPATION.


    Self Care

    Use a simple bulk-forming laxative and be sure to add lots of fiber and fluids to your diet. FIBER without fluids can create more bulk in your stool, so add both to your diet. If the constipation persists, call your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Unintentional weight loss can be a sign of a serious condition, such as CANCER.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have HEPATITIS, a serious infection of the liver.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have MONONUCLEOSIS (“MONO”) or a similar VIRAL INFECTION.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Treatment of MONO includes rest (make sure to avoid forceful contact to the abdomen), drinking plenty of fluids, and taking medicine to treat the symptoms.


  • Diagnosis

    Your problem may be MALABSORPTION, an inability to absorb some foods, or LACTOSE INTOLERANCE or WHEAT/GLUTEN INTOLERANCE (CELIAC DISEASE) or SENSITIVITY.


    Self Care

    Keeping a food diary will help find patterns and potential food triggers. Avoid the foods and beverages that cause your symptoms. People who have LACTOSE INTOLERANCE can use lactose enzyme tablets or drops to help them digest foods that contain lactose.


  • Diagnosis

    Your pancreas may not be producing enough enzymes for proper digestion. This condition is called PANCREATIC INSUFFICIENCY.


    Self Care

    Call your doctor. Your doctor may ask for a sample of your bowel movements to confirm pancreatic insufficiency.


  • Diagnosis

    You might have a parasitic infection called GIARDIASIS. Other BOWEL INFECTIONS or MALABSORPTION may also cause these symptoms.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. To prevent parasitic infections, don’t drink untreated water from lakes or streams, and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.


  • Self Care

    For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think your problem is serious, call right away.


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