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Abdominal cramps

Abdominal cramps: Possible causes and treatment

Abdominal cramps are characterised by a sudden, uncontrollable, tight feeling in the stomach muscles that may be uncomfortable and painful. A majority of the time, abdominal cramps aren’t serious and don’t need to be diagnosed. If, however, they occur frequently, are severe or last for more than a day, it could be a symptom of a more serious issue, which may require immediate medical attention.

The organs in the abdomen include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. This means that most times, abdominal cramps are associated with problems or diseases associated with the organs in the abdominal area. 

This suggests that the causes and treatments for abdominal cramps can vary. 

Causes

While abdominal cramps can be caused by many conditions, the main causes can be listed out as food poisoning, food allergy, food intolerances, infection, abnormal growths, inflammation, obstruction, and intestinal disorders. 

  • Food poisoning: When you consume food contaminated with certain germs, your body may react in a way that results in abdominal cramps. For some people, it might take longer for cramps to appear and might even resolve without any medical treatment. If your food poisoning is more serious, however, you may experience vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, and even blood in your stool. This may require immediate treatment.
  • Food allergy: When your body’s immune system defends itself against food it has mistakenly identified as harmful, you may experience abdominal cramps.

  • Food intolerances: When food irritates your digestive system or your body has trouble breaking it down, you may experience certain food intolerances.

  • Infection: Infection in the throat, intestines, and blood may allow bacteria to enter your digestive tract. This may result in symptoms like abdominal cramps and changes in digestion such as diarrhoea or constipation.

  • Abnormal growths: Also identified as an abdominal mass, this can be the result of several factors such as an injury, cyst, benign tumour, cancer or another disease. One of the symptoms of this issue can be abdominal cramps.

  • Inflammation: If you are suffering from chronic gastritis, your stomach lining may become inflamed due to the damage caused by stomach acid. This may result in symptoms such as abdominal cramps.

  • Obstruction: Obstruction in the small or large intestine can prevent or restrict the flow of food or drinks through the bowels. Abdominal cramps can be one of the more common symptoms of this issue.

  • Intestinal disorders: Abdominal cramps can also be a symptom of intestinal disorders such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids, anal fissures, diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, polyps, and abdominal cancer.

Treatment

Mild abdominal cramps may not require a diagnosis and may go away without treatment. 

In certain cases, however, the pain caused by abdominal cramps may necessitate immediate medical attention. If you are experiencing severe pain and discomfort, identifying the cause of your abdominal cramps may help you feel better.

If you are suffering from abdominal cramps due to food poisoning, food allergies, food intolerances or infection, the immediate treatment might be to avoid the food that is causing your cramps. 

If you are experiencing associated symptoms such as diarrhoea or vomiting, you may get dehydrated. If so, you may also need to hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water. 

Abdominal cramps resulting from abnormal growths, inflammation, and obstruction in your abdomen may need to be diagnosed as it may be a more serious issue. As an immediate form of treatment, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and take pain-relief medication. In the meantime, it’s important to seek immediate medical advice to diagnose the exact cause of the growth to begin personalised treatment.

If your abdominal cramps are a result of intestinal disorders, treatment targeted at managing these disorders may help treat your abdominal cramps as well.

Request more information on the causes and treatment for abdominal cramps

In most cases, abdominal cramps can be a symptom of a more serious, underlying health issue. If you are experiencing prolonged symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. It may be helpful if you consult a team of expert gastroenterologists for more information on why you may be experiencing abdominal cramps.

Please note that due to COVID-19, our clinic has revised its safety protocols to protect the health and wellbeing of our patients and staff.

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