Is abdominal pain dangerous?

Abdominal Pain: When to Be Worried

Abdominal pain is a common problem that can be caused by mild afflictions such as indigestion or menstrual cramps, as well as much more serious conditions such as a hernia or a urinary tract infection. The problem is that since abdominal pain is so common, it can be difficult to know when you should be worried about it. In order to know if your abdominal pain is a cause for concern, pay attention to your other signs and symptoms.

If your abdominal pain is mild, intermittent, isn’t worse with movement or pressure, your appetite is not affected, and does not interfere with regular activity, then you shouldn’t be worried about the cause for your pain, as it is likely not due to something very severe. Additionally, if you are experiencing normal bowel movements, then this indicates that there is nothing wrong with your digestive tract, which is also a good sign.

However, severe abdominal pain that is accompanied by the following symptoms should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible. 

  • Nausea and/or Vomiting blood: This could signal an extreme shut down of the digestive tract.
  • Bloody stools: Blood in the stool without abdominal pain is not usually a cause for concern, since it could be due to hemorrhoids, but bleeding with abdominal pain is very worrisome.
  • Pain lasting for several days: Pain that is continuous is much more worrisome than pain that is brief or intermittent.
  • Melena: This describes black, tarry bowel movements, which signifies bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Even without abdominal pain, melena is serious cause for concern and you should seek medical attention immediately.
  • Tenderness in the abdomen: Tenderness is a term that defines pain that results when the body is pressed on.
  • Pain during pregnancy: This could mean nothing, or it could mean something is wrong with the baby; regardless, you should always have abdominal pain checked out during pregnancy just to be safe.
  • Dizziness: This could mean that your blood pressure is dropping, which is very concerning.
  • Fever: This could signal that your body is trying to fight off an infection that you need antibiotics for.
  • Difficulty breathing: Anytime you are ever having trouble breathing, you should seek emergency care.
  • Loss of appetite: If there is a serious problem going on in the abdomen, your body’s digestive system will shut down, which will cause you to feel nauseated and not want to eat.

All of these symptoms could indicate that there is internal inflammation, bleeding, or infection that needs medical attention immediately. In rare cases, these symptoms could be indicative of abdominal, ovarian, or colorectal cancer.

Remember that it is always better to get checked out by a doctor for something small and not concerning than to stay at home and have something serious that needs treatment. When in doubt, always talk to your doctor, even if you are embarrassed to do so. 

Last Updated: July 26, 2016