Pain in the abdominal region can occur for many different reasons, and some abdominal pain causes can be quite serious.
Two fairly common conditions that can cause pain in your abdomen alongside other gastrointestinal health problems are diverticulitis and appendicitis.
Learning to recognize the signs of each of these conditions is very important in preventing severe complications.
Many people, usually over the age of 40, can develop small pouches in their large intestines, known as diverticula. These pouches do not cause any symptoms on their own, but when they are inflamed, they can become very painful.
Pain associated with diverticulitis is often severe. It typically occurs on the left lower part of the abdomen, and the pain may continue for multiple days. It may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, and constipation, or diarrhea.
Reducing Your Risk of Inflammation
The most effective way to avoid pain from diverticulitis is to minimize your risk factors for developing diverticula. These risk factors include taking medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and steroids; being overweight; smoking; failing to exercise regularly; and eating a high-fat and low-fiber diet.
Once diverticula develop, inflammation is typically the result of aggravation from dietary content. In particular, eating more fiber can greatly reduce the likelihood of inflammation.
Previously, it was thought that nuts and seeds tend to cause inflammation, but recent studies have suggested this is inaccurate. In fact, nuts and seeds are high in fiber, so they may actually help you avoid inflammation.
If you have a diverticulitis flare-up, it’s best to seek medical treatment. If you only experience mild symptoms, you can likely recover at home. Your doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition, and they may suggest a liquid-only diet for a few days while you recover.
More severe cases of diverticulitis may require hospitalization. Treatment can involve antibiotics delivered intravenously and IV fluid hydration. If complications like abdominal abscesses form, you may need surgery to remove the affected parts of your intestine.
While appendicitis involves abdominal pain that can be severe, just like diverticulitis, the condition itself is very different. The pain is the result of inflammation in your appendix in the lower right side of your abdomen. Medical attention is critical, so it’s important to be able to identify the likely signs of appendicitis.
In addition to pain, other common symptoms of appendicitis include a lack of appetite, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.
One characteristic sign of appendicitis is rebound tenderness. Gently press your fingers into the right side of your abdomen. If you feel more pain after letting go than you did when you applied pressure, this strongly correlates with appendicitis.
Causes and Complications
Appendicitis often occurs when dry compact feces known as a fecalith forms inside the appendix and causes obstruction and inflammation. Sometimes, it can occur seemingly out of nowhere without a clear cause. Either way, it’s important to seek treatment before the condition gets worse.
Untreated appendicitis can cause the appendix to rupture, requiring immediate surgery to remove the appendix. This can also lead to sepsis, a severe and often deadly kind of infection.
All cases of appendicitis warrant going to the hospital. Quick discovery and reaction can greatly improve the chances of a successful outcome by removal of your appendix, known as an appendectomy before it has the chance to burst. This greatly reduces the risk of complications.
Antibiotics are usually utilized in the treatment of the condition.
Abdominal Pain and Gastrointestinal Treatments
Many different conditions that affect the digestive tract and nearby organs can also cause abdominal pain. It is difficult to know whether the condition is something more serious, so when in doubt, see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve or get worse.
If the cause of the pain is found to be something other than appendicitis or diverticulitis, your healthcare provider can still assist you in finding ways to regulate your pain or treat other gastric conditions that may be causing the problem.
Supporting Your Gastrointestinal Health
You can support ongoing gastrointestinal health through good habits like regular exercise and healthy eating. Make sure you’re getting enough fluids and fiber, which are critical for good GI health, and get active at least a few times each week.
Some gastrointestinal issues are fairly minor, but major illnesses such as appendicitis and diverticulitis are quite dangerous. The faster you seek treatment, the more likely you are to make a speedy recovery without any complications.