Abdominal pain can be difficult to diagnose due to the large amount of conditions in which it presents itself. Distinguishing abdominal pain can go a long way in making a diagnosis easier. Different diseases cause abdominal pain in different regions of the abdomen. Lower right quadrant abdominal pain, as an example, has only a few common causes. Differential diagnosis can be further limited by noting the type of pain and accompanying symptoms.
Appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix, usually due to infection, is probably the most well-known cause of lower right quadrant abdominal pain. The appendix is a small, finger-like appendage that is connected to the intestinal tract. Occasionally, stool, seeds, mucus or parasites fill the appendix and cause it to become irritated and swell. Eventually, the swelling cuts off blood supply and the tissues start to die. Tissue death weakens the appendix and it bursts. Abdominal pain due to appendicitis gradually becomes more severe. It is exacerbated by movement, deep breathing, coughing and sneezing. Aside from abdominal pain, appendicitis causes nausea, vomiting, fever and constipation or diarrhea. Appendicitis can be confirmed with a CT scan. Treatment is almost always surgery to remove the diseased appendix.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that commonly affects the digestive tract. It most commonly develops in the small intestine, but it can also present in the stomach, esophagus, mouth, anus and duodenum. Crohn’s is most often seen in males and females aged 15 to 35. Lower right quadrant abdominal pain is the most common symptom, and it is often accompanied by weight loss, diarrhea, blood in the stool and fever. Considered a long-term intermittent condition, Crohn’s disease often has symptom free periods, followed by a recurrence of symptoms. Crohn’s disease does not have a cure, but symptoms can be managed through nutritional supplementation, drug therapy and occasionally, surgery. Common medications used to manage Crohn’s include steroids, immune system suppressors, antibiotics and antidiarrheals.
Ectopic pregnancy is a serious cause of lower abdominal pain in women. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can occur in a variety of places, including the ovaries, abdominal organs and cervix, but are most common in the fallopian tubes. They are most likely in women who have had damage to their tubes, usually due to infection, surgery, endometriosis or tubal birth defects. Cramping pain in the lower abdomen is a common symptom of ectopic pregnancy. Which side the cramping is on is dependent on which fallopian tube the embryo is growing in. Other symptoms include lower back pain, nausea, breast changes and abnormal vaginal bleeding. Sharp, severe pain and syncope become common symptoms if the pregnancy causes tubal rupture. Surgery to remove the embryo is always necessary. Further treatment, such as I.V. fluids, blood transfusions, supplemental oxygen and heated blankets, may be necessary if the fallopian tube has ruptured.
Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is cancer that develops in the large intestine or rectum. Colon cancer has many different causes and risk factors. Some people have a genetic predisposition to it. Colon cancer has been associated with certain dietary factors, such as high-fat diets, low-fiber diets and the frequent eating of red meat. Alcohol and cigarettes are also correlates. Lower abdominal pain can develop on either the right or left side, and is accompanied by a change in bowel movements, narrow stools, bloody stools, unexplained weight loss, unexplained anemia and intestinal obstruction. A colonoscopy is usually done to confirm the presence of colon cancer. Treatment depends on whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Stage 0 and I colon cancer is typically treated with surgery to remove the cancerous part of the colon. Stage II and III cancers are treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Stage IV cancer is treated primarily with chemotherapy, though procedures such as ablation, cryotherapy and radiation are sometimes used as well.