Lower abdominal pain in women: Causes and treatments

By: Bel Marra Health | Pain Management | Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 06:30 AM

Lower abdominal pain in womenA lot of people experience tummy pain at some point in their lives, but lower abdominal pain in women is rather common. The reasons for this pain vary from person to person, so treatment should not follow a one size fits all approach.

The abdomen is the area containing your digestive organs and is bound by the pelvic bone and diaphragm. Abdominal pain, including lower abdominal pain, is usually a term used to describe the pain that comes from organs within the abdominal cavity. Those organs include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas. In women, the lowest portion of the abdomen is actually the pelvis and involves the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the pain is in the abdomen or the pelvis area. Lower abdominal pain can be frightening for a woman since there is a tendency for them to think that it could jeopardize their reproductive process, but that is not always the case. The most common reason for lower abdominal pain in women is menstruation.

There are times when lower abdominal pain occurs even though the problem is in the organs that are not in the abdominal cavity. For instance, people can experience issues with their lower lungs or kidneys, which can cause abdominal pain.

Lower abdominal pain in women: Symptoms and causes

Lower abdominal pain in women can be a sign of many different medical issues. In some cases, the pain disappears quickly, while others require simple treatment. There are, of course, situations where the cause of the abdominal pain is a little more complicated and may take more time to treat. Below is a list of symptoms and causes of lower abdominal pain.

  • Appendicitis — When abdominal pain on the right side occurs and radiates to other areas of the stomach, it could be inflammation of the appendix. This is a condition that can get worse within a matter of hours.
  • Cystitis — This is a bladder infection that leads to symptoms of lower abdominal pain, pressure in the abdomen, a burning sensation when urinating, and frequent urination.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease — An infection in the female reproductive organs can cause a lot of discomfort. The other symptoms include lower abdominal pain and back pain, pain during intercourse, pain when urinating, vaginal discharge, weakness, and fever.
  • Menstrual pain or PMS — During a woman’s monthly period, she could experience symptoms such as throbbing lower back pain and cramping.
  • Miscarriage – The loss of a fetus before the 20th week is called a miscarriage and it can cause pain in the lower abdomen. Symptoms include cramping, back pain, vaginal spotting and bleeding, and the passing of fluid or tissue from the vagina.
  • Endometriosis — This is a condition where the uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, leading to pain. Cramping in the pelvis, pain in the lower back and abdomen, pain when urinating and defecating, as well as pain during a period can occur.
  • Fibroids — The noncancerous growths in the uterus can include symptoms of pain and pressure in the pelvis, heavy periods, frequent urination, constipation, as well as pain in the back and legs.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome – This is a hormonal disorder seen in women of childbearing age. The symptoms often include pelvic pain, irregular periods, heavy periods, and excessive growth of facial and body hair.
  • Cancer — When the lower side of the abdomen has a cancerous growth, it can lead to mild or very sharp lower abdominal pain.
  • Kidney stone — Mild to severe lower abdominal pain under the ribs can occur when kidney stones form. This can also involve severe back pain.
  • Cholecystitis — This is inflammation and swelling of the gallbladder, and it causes pain in the lower abdomen.
  • Ectopic pregnancy — This is a condition that can cause right or left abdominal pain and can be life threatening.
  • Intestinal obstruction — This happens when contents of the intestine that pass the lower bowl are blocked. This leads to severe abdominal pain.
  • Ovarian cysts – A sac or cyst on the ovary can lead to lower abdominal pain—these cysts are often benign.
  • Salpingitis — This is a sexual disease that can cause inflammation in a woman’s fallopian tubes. The disease can lead to severe pain in the abdomen.

Treating lower abdominal pain in women

The most common treatment for lower abdominal pain in women is a heating pad and mild pain medications—this is for PMS or actual menstrual cramping. In cases where the pain is severe, a doctor might prescribe medications that will control hormones, reducing the possibility of inflammation and pain in subsequent months. When a woman experiences sharp pelvic cramps and pain, especially those that are felt on one side, it may be an ectopic pregnancy. This is urgent and requires emergency care. Pelvic inflammatory disease also calls for medical attention, as advanced cases of this condition usually mean surgery is needed.

It is not unusual for women to get cysts or fibroids. While the majority are harmless, others can cause a lot of discomfort and require surgical removal. Meanwhile, polycystic ovary syndrome is often treated with oral contraceptive pills to help regulate a woman’s cycle. However, surgery is still a treatment option.

In cases where a person is suffering from appendicitis, surgery may be required to remove the appendix. Thankfully, in the case of bladder infections, surgery is not the protocol. Antibiotics are the main treatment for UTI’s.

Clearly, the treatment depends on the cause and it is dangerous to self-diagnose. Seeing a doctor will allow for proper investigation into what is causing the lower abdominal pain so that an appropriate treatment can be administered.

What does the doctor do?

When a woman experiences lower abdominal pain and goes to the doctor, she will be asked a series of questions about her period, urination habits, and bowel movements. She will also be asked to describe her general health and any symptoms that might seem unrelated, such as fever or fatigue. In some cases, the doctor may deem it appropriate to ask a woman about her family, career, and sex life.

Once the initial chat with the doctor is complete, a physical exam will take place. The doctor will check the abdomen and may even conduct an internal examination. Often physicians will ask for a urine sample, which can detect infection. In cases where a woman mentions vaginal discharge, the doctor may take a vaginal swab.

Here are some other possible tests:

  • Gynaecological — This could include swabs, cervical smears, or pelvic ultrasounds. Special blood tests for ovarian cancer can also be performed.
  • Endoscopic exam — An examination of the bowel may occur if a colonic cause is suspected.
  • CT scan — This is a computerized topography scan that can detect abdominal abnormalities.
  • Ultrasound — Can investigate urinary causes

Lower abdominal pain: Lifestyle and prevention tips

While some forms of lower abdominal pain are out of our control, we do have the ability to take good care of our tummies and to prevent discomfort. For example, a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water can help us avoid channel infections. It can also control constipation, which may lead to lower abdominal pain.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear cotton undergarments
  • Avoid perfumed merchandise around the vagina, such as body washes
  • Try drinking lemon juice and ginger juice to control and prevent PMS and menstrual pain.
  • Take pain medications as prescribed
  • Don’t self-diagnose

While most people who experience lower abdominal pain have nothing to be concerned about, when symptoms don’t go away or are severe, it could be a sign of something serious. If you find yourself in one of these situations, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. In many cases, the sooner proper treatment begins, the less chance there is of sustaining long-term damage or needing surgery.

Related: Pain in lower left abdomen – causes and home remedies


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Sources:

http://www.medicinenet.com/abdominal_pain_causes_remedies_treatment/article.htm
https://www.reference.com/health/treatments-female-lower-abdominal-pain-d172253cd6e0f80f#

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