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Adult Symptoms > Abdomen (GI) Symptoms > Abdominal Pain - Female
Abdominal Pain - Female

DEFINITION

  • Pain or discomfort located between the bottom of the rib cage and the groin crease

General Information

  • There are multiple causes of abdominal pain. In women the range of diagnoses needs to be broadened to include problems related to pregnancy and the female organs.
  • The possibility of pregnancy must be considered in all women of childbearing age.
  • Abdominal pain in the elderly carries with it a higher risk of serious illness.

Top Causes of Abdominal Pain in Women Younger than 50 Years of Age

  • Appendicitis
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Nonspecific abdominal pain
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Spontaneous abortion

Top Causes of Abdominal Pain in Women Older than 50 Years of Age

  • Appendicitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Peptic ulcer disease

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If


WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If

  • Passed out (fainted)
  • Very weak (can't stand)

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You feel weak or very sick
  • Severe pain
  • Constant abdominal pain for more than 2 hours
  • Vomiting blood or black (coffee-grounds)
  • Vomiting bile (bright yellow or green)
  • Vomiting and abdomen is more swollen than usual
  • Blood in bowel movements (black/tarry or red)
  • Recent injury to the abdomen
  • Fever of 103° F (39.4° C) or higher
  • Fever of 100.5° F (38.1° C) or higher and you:
    • Are over 60 years of age OR
    • Have diabetes mellitus or a weakened immune system (e.g., HIV positive, cancer chemotherapy, chronic steroid treatment, splenectomy) OR
    • Are bedridden (e.g., nursing home patient, stroke, chronic illness, recovering from surgery)
  • Whites of the eyes have turned yellow (jaundice)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think you need to be seen
  • Moderate or mild pain comes and goes (cramps), but lasts greater than 24 hours
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge (e.g., bad odor; yellow, gray or green in color)
  • Age greater than 60 years
  • Pregnant or could be pregnant (e.g., missed last menstrual period)
  • Blood in urine

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Abdominal pains are a recurrent problem
  • Pain with sexual intercourse

Self Care at Home If

  • Mild abdominal pain and you don't think you need to be seen

HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MILD ABDOMINAL PAIN

  1. Reassurance: A mild stomachache can be caused by indigestion, gas pains or overeating. Sometimes a stomachache signals the onset of a vomiting illness due to a viral gastroenteritis ("stomach flu").
  2. Rest: Lie down and rest until you feel better.
  3. Fluids: Sip clear fluids only (e.g., water, flat soft drinks or 1/2 strength fruit juice) until the pain has been gone for over 2 hours. Then slowly return to a regular diet.
  4. Diet:
    • Slowly advance diet from clear liquids to a bland diet
    • Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages
    • Avoid greasy or fatty foods.
  5. Pass A BM: Sit on the toilet and try to pass a bowel movement (BM). Do not strain. This may relieve the pain if it is due to constipation or impending diarrhea.
  6. Avoid Medicines: Any drug could irritate the stomach lining and make the pain worse, especially an anti-inflammatory medicine such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Do not take any pain medicines, fever medicines or laxatives for stomach cramps.
  7. Expected Course: With harmless causes, the pain is usually better or goes away within 2 hours. With viral gastroenteritis ("stomach flu"), belly cramps may precede each bout of vomiting or diarrhea and may last 2-3 days. With serious causes (such as appendicitis) the pain becomes constant and more severe.
  8. Pregnancy test, when in doubt:
    • If there is any possibility of pregnancy, obtain and use a urine pregnancy test from the local drug store.
    • Follow the instructions included in the package.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Abdominal pain is constant and present for more than 2 hours
    • Abdominal pains come and go, and are present for more than 24 hours
    • You are pregnant
    • You become worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 1/9/2011

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions LLC; LMS, Inc.


Additional Resources:

 How to use the Adult Health Topics pages
 When to call the doctor
 Reviewers of Clinical Content

Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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