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Chronic abdominal pain is pain that is present for more than three months. It may be present all the time, or it may come and go (referred to as “recurrent pain”). Causes include:
- Lactose intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Peptic ulcers
Functional Chronic Abdominal Pain
Functional chronic abdominal pain is real pain that exists for more than six months and occurs with no evidence of a specific physical disorder. It is also not related to body functions (such as menstrual periods, bowel movements, or eating), a drug, or a toxin. Functional pain can be severe and typically interferes with a person’s life.
Exactly what causes the pain is unknown. But the nerves of the digestive tract may become oversensitive to sensations.
Chronic Abdominal Pain Symptoms
Symptoms of chronic abdominal pain vary from patient to patient, and they may change with each episode. The most common symptoms include:
- Sharp or dull pain
- Severe pain that causes you to become sweaty, cry or bend over in pain
- Pain that lasts a few minutes or hours
- Pain in the belly button area or anywhere in the belly
- Pain that may or may not be related to eating
- Pain that occurs any time of the day or night
- Abdominal pain that occurs with vomiting, headaches, or pain in the arms or legs
- Not being hungry like usual or skipping meals, usually without losing weight
Symptoms that require a doctor’s immediate attention include a high fever, loss of appetite or weight, pain that awakens the person, blood in stool or urine, jaundice, severe nausea and vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and swelling of the legs or abdomen.
Treatment Options for Chronic Abdominal Pain
Treatment depends on the cause. If a physical cause is known, treating the cause is the first step.
When a physical cause is not found, treatment focuses on helping people return to normal daily activities and minimizing discomfort. These measures include:
- Lessening stress and anxiety with medications, relaxation techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, or other methods
- Relieving pain with medications
- High-fiber diet or fiber supplements
- Reducing muscle spasms in the digestive tract with medications or peppermint oil
Why Choose Weill Cornell Medicine?
Our physicians at the Weill Cornell Medicine Division of Pain Management use the latest research, the most advanced equipment, and innovative therapies to diagnose pain and develop customized pain management plans for each patient.
We are experts in diagnosing and treating chronic abdominal pain and its many causes.
Weill Cornell Medicine also offers clinical trials, giving patients access to treatments that may not be available elsewhere. Learn more about Pain Management's current clinical trials.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.