Abdominal Pain, Long-Term
Ongoing or recurrent abdominal 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?
SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
1. Does your pain
get worse after
Go to Question 10.*
you eat a big
See your doctor. Eat
2. Do you feel
especially at night.
pressure in your
Don't lie down right
Your problem may be a after you eat. Use 2
that gets worse
HIATAL HERNIA. or 3 pillows, or a
when you bend
foam wedge, or
over or lie down at
raise the head of
your bed to prevent
Eat smaller meals
Your pain may be from
and use an over-
3. Is the pain GASTRITIS, an ULCER or
relieved by HEARTBURN; all are
If antacids don't
antacids? irritations of the stomach
help, see your
4. Does the pain
start in your upper Your pain may be a sign
middle or upper of GALLSTONES or
right abdomen, CHOLECYSTITIS See your doctor.
and is it brought (infection of the
on by greasy or gallbladder).
Try a diet high in
5. Does your pain
soluble FIBER for 2
get worse when
weeks. Takew steps
you're under Your pain may be from
to reduce your
stress or do you IRRITABLE BOWEL
stress and to
alternate between SYNDROME, also known
exercise regularly. If
loose and hard as SPASTIC COLON.
you don't get better,
check with your
6. Do you have
soft or diarrhea-
You may have CROHN'S
DISEASE or ULCERATIVE See your doctor.
COLITIS, inflammatory These disorders are
diseases of the colon or treatable.
the day and
mucus or blood in
7. Do you have
Any infection of the
recurrent bouts of You may have
abdomen can be
pain in the lower DIVERTICULITIS, an
serious. CALL YOUR
left side of your infection of small pockets
abdomen along in the colon.
Bright red, bloody stools
may be caused by a
8. Do you have bleeding HEMORRHOID
bright red blood in or a bleeding POLYP, but
See your doctor.
or on your bowel they can also be a sign
movements? of a more serious
problem such as CANCER
of the colon.
9. Has it been a Use a simple bulk-
few days or longer forming laxative and
Your discomfort is
since you last had be sure to add lots
a bowel movement of FIBER and fluids
and do you and do to your diet. If the
you have to strain constipation
when you have a persists, call your
bowel movement? doctor.
*10. Has your
decreased, and Unintentional weight loss
have you lost 10 can be a sign of a
See your doctor.
to 15 pounds over serious condition such as
the past few CANCER.
11. Do your skin
You may have VIRAL
or eyes have a
HEPATITIS a serious See your doctor.
yellow color, or is
infection of the liver.
your urine dark?
See your doctor.
Treatment of mono
12. Have you had You may have
fever, sore throat MONONUCLEOSIS
drinking plenty of
or extreme ("MONO") or a similar
fluids and taking
tiredness? VIRAL INFECTION.
medicine to treat
Avoid the foods and
Your problem may be cause your
13. Do you have
MALABSORPTION, an symptoms. People
inability to absorb some who have lactose
foods, or LACTOSE intolerance can use
made worse by
INTOLERANCE or WHEAT lactose enzyme
milk or wheat
INTOLERANCE (CELIAC tablets or drops to
DISEASE). help them digest
foods that contain
14. Are your bowel Your pancreas may not Call your doctor. He
movements yellow be producing enough or she may ask for a
and greasy, and enzymes for proper sample of your
do they float in digestion. This condition bowel movements to
the toilet? is called PANCREATIC confirm pancreatic
See your doctor. To
You might have a
15. Do you have infections, don't
parasitic infection called
excess gas that is drink untreated
very foul-smelling water from lakes or
BOWEL INFECTIONS or
and occasional streams, and wash
loose bowel fruits and
also cause these
please talk to your
doctor. If you
problem is serious,
call right away.
This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only.
It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be
relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor
with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source:
American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide.