What Does The Pancreas Do
The pancreas is a gland located in your abdomen, underneath your stomach. Its shaped like a large tadpole, with a round head and a thinner, tapered body. The head is curved into the duodenum, the first part of your small intestine. The body of the pancreas sits between your stomach and spine.
The pancreas has two kinds of cells. Each type of cell produces a different substance.
- Endocrine cellsproduce the hormones insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide. Insulin helps lower blood sugar, and glucagon raises blood sugar.
- Exocrine cellsproduce enzymes that help digest food in the intestine. Trypsin and chymotrypsin break down proteins. Amylase digests carbohydrates, and lipase breaks down fats.
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Upper Abdominal And Back Pain
Common causes of abdominal pain that radiates orspreads to the back include:
- Severe upper abdominal and back pain
- Pain that occurs after eating rich foods, fattyfoods, or foods with lots of protein
- Abdominal and back pain that worsens when lyingdown and gets slightly better by leaning forward
Pancreatitis isa serious illness that can mimic gastritis, stomach ulcers, or duodenal ulcers.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a life-longcondition in which the bowels develop a sensitivity to stressful situations andcertain foods. IBS is a condition three times more common in women than in men. The abdominal pain of irritable bowel syndrome is often experienced bypeople as abdominal pain on the left side.
IBS can be associated with constipation, the passageof mucus in the stool, or diarrhoea. Sufferers may feel abdominal bloating, weariness,fatigue, backaches, and sometimes an increase in frequency or urgency ofurinating.
The symptoms are often made worse by stressfulexperiences and can last for months and years.
Related Conditions Of Abdominal Pain
Some of the most common conditions associated with abdominal pain include the following:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome This condition is characterized by symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
Constipation If you arent having regular bowel movements, you may feel bloated and full and experience sharp gas pains in your abdomen.
Peptic Ulcer When a sore develops in the lining of your stomach or upper small intestine, you may experience a burning sensation similar to hunger pangs, along with nausea, vomiting, or heartburn.
Pancreatitis Inflammation of your pancreas may cause sharp, severe pain in the upper middle area of your abdomen, along with nausea, vomiting, or fever. This condition can be either acute or chronic.
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Why Does My Stomach Hurt
Tummy troubles are a common cause for a visit to the doctors office. When patients complain of stomach pain, they are sometimes describing pain that is throughout the abdomen area and may not actually be directly related to the organ known as the stomach.
Doctors first try to determine if a patients abdominal pain is caused by a structural or functional problem.
Sometimes the digestive tract does not function properly due to an abnormality with the structure of an organ. Medical imaging will show that the organ does not look normal and is not working properly.
The gastrointestinal system has its own nervous system to control the muscle contractions that digest the food you eat. Functional problems, also called motility disorders, result from poor nerve and muscle function in the digestive tract. Gastrointestinal organs with motility problems will usually look normal on medical imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRI scans, but the organs do not work like they should. Because functional disorders are hard to see in imaging, they can be challenging to diagnose.
An Overview Of Gynecologic Abdominal Pain
As a woman, you will experience some discomfort or pain in your abdomen from time to time. It could be because of poor sleeping habits or something you ate that is distressing your stomach. However, issues arising from the digestive tract are not always the root cause of abdominal pain. For women, gynecological problems may manifest as abdominal pain arising from the pelvic area and at times, the back.
The symptoms of abdominal pain may vary from one woman to another. Some women feel a mild irritation, while others experience severe pain that makes it difficult to manage everyday responsibilities. In essence, abdominal pain may be:
- A sharp, cramping sensation
The discomfort may also feel like pressure, fullness, or heaviness in the lower abdomen. Symptoms of abdominal pain may worsen during urination or bowel movements, intercourse, or long periods of standing or sitting.
Discussed below are conditions that could cause abdominal pain in women.
If you have not gone through menopause and your ovaries are still intact, you may get cramps about 10-14 days before your period. This occurs when an egg is released to prepare your body for a possible pregnancy. Physicians depict painful ovulation as mittelschmerz, which means middle pain.
When fibroids outgrow their blood supply and begin to die, they can cause a very sharp, severe abdominal pain. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following:
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Gas And Gastrointestinal Problems
Most of the time, gas is no more than a minor annoyance.
However, gas occasionally produces intense pain that makes the entire abdomen feel full and tender. This pain can radiate to the back, causing back pain and bloating. Minor gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach viruses, may also cause intense gas pain.
Sometimes, GI issues can cause muscle pain. This can happen after straining to have a bowel movement or repeatedly vomiting.
Anatomy Of The Abdomen
The abdomen is the area that falls between your chest and pelvis that is commonly referred to as your belly. It consists of stomach, liver, small intestine, large intestine, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, diaphragm, and pancreas among other organs. The front of the abdomen consists of a tissue layer known as fascia, and the back of the abdomen consists of spine and back muscles. Blood vessels are connected with the abdomen, mainly theinferior vena cava and aorta and its branches.
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What To Eat If You Have Pancreatitis
To get your pancreas healthy, focus on foods that are rich in protein, low in animal fats, and contain antioxidants. Try lean meats, beans and lentils, clear soups, and dairy alternatives . Your pancreas wont have to work as hard to process these.
Research suggests that some people with pancreatitis can tolerate up to 30 to 40% of calories from fat when its from whole-food plant sources or medium-chain triglycerides . Others do better with much lower fat intake, such as 50 grams or less per day.
Spinach, blueberries, cherries, and whole grains can work to protect your digestion and fight the free radicals that damage your organs.
If youre craving something sweet, reach for fruit instead of added sugars since those with pancreatitis are at high risk for diabetes.
Consider cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and hummus, and fruit as your go-to snacks. Your pancreas will thank you.
- pastries and desserts with added sugars
- beverages with added sugars
If youre trying to combat pancreatitis, avoid trans-fatty acids in your diet.
Fried or heavily processed foods, like french fries and fast-food hamburgers, are some of the worst offenders. Organ meats, full-fat dairy, potato chips, and mayonnaise also top the list of foods to limit.
Cooked or deep-fried foods might trigger a flare-up of pancreatitis. Youll also want to cut back on the refined flour found in cakes, pastries, and cookies. These foods can tax the digestive system by causing your insulin levels to spike.
The Link Between Your Gut Microbiome And Your Health
In addition, many of the underlying conditions that cause abdominal pain can lead to serious complications, including the possibility of structural damage to the digestive system from infection, cancer and its treatments, and inflammatory bowel disease .
To reduce the risk of complications, its important to seek medical attention for your abdominal pain if its sudden and severe, or if it includes symptoms like fever, bloody stool, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, or visible swelling.
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Chronic Recurrent Abdominal Pain
Children and adolescents with chronic abdominal pain are challenging both for their caregivers and their pediatricians. The daily lives and activities of affected children and their families are interrupted by the distressing symptoms. For the past 40 years, the definition of chronic abdominal pain denotes at least three pain episodes over at least 3 months interfering with function.1 In clinical practice, it is generally believed that pain exceeding 1 or 2 months in duration can be considered chronic.13,14
Previously, chronic abdominal pain in children was referred to as recurrent abdominal pain and classified as either organic RAP, which applied to 5% to 10% of children,15-18 or functional abdominal pain, which affected 90% to 95% of children with chronic abdominal pain.19,20
In March 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition issued a policy statement recommending that the term recurrent abdominal pain no longer be used: Functional abdominal pain is the most common cause of chronic abdominal pain. It is a specific diagnosis that needs to be distinguished from anatomic, infectious, inflammatory, or metabolic causes of abdominal pain.13,14 Functional abdominal pain should be categorized as one or a combination of functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome , abdominal migraine, or functional abdominal pain syndrome.
Functional abdominal pain
How Is Chronic Pancreatitis Treated
Depending on the severity and symptoms of the chronic pancreatitis patient, he or she may require hospitalization for pain management, IV hydration, and nutritional support.
Chronic pancreatitis requires the patient to eat a healthy low-fat diet, drinking lots of fluids, limiting caffeine, eating small frequent meals, and making sure you have enough calcium and vitamins in your diet. You may be prescribed pancreatic enzymes, which are taken at each meal. People with chronic pancreatitis should avoid alcohol and smoking.
Your doctor may prescribe pain medicines or even a surgical block for pain relief. Some patients take insulin to control glucose levels. In very severe cases, part or all of the pancreas may be removed.
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Support For People Living With Chronic Pancreatitis
Any long-term health condition, particularly one that causes recurring episodes of pain or constant pain, can affect your emotional and psychological health.
See a GP if you’re experiencing psychological and emotional difficulties. There are medicines available that can help with stress, anxiety and depression.
Talking to other people with the same condition can often reduce feelings of isolation and stress.
The charity Guts UK, may be able to put you in touch with a local support group.
Page last reviewed: 26 May 2022 Next review due: 26 May 2025
What Causes Mild To Moderate Abdominal Pain
Most Australians will experience mild or moderate abdominal pain from time to time. Often these episodes last only a few hours or days. They may clear up without the need for treatment. However, you may be more comfortable managing the symptoms with medicines from your pharmacy or doctor.
Some of the causes of short-term abdominal pain are:
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Box 2 Common Presentations Of Primary Survey Positive Patients
Heavy vaginal bleeding
Complications of labour
Shock can be attributable to either hypovolaemia or sepsis. En route to hospital obtain intravenous access and draw blood for cross matching. Remember to complete the patient details on the blood specimen tube. No intervention should delay transfer to definitive medical care. Intravenous fluid resuscitation in abdominal haemorrhage should be based on the principle of hypotensive resuscitation, aiming to give enough fluid to maintain a radial pulse.
Prognosis Of Abdominal Pain
How long your abdominal pain lasts, and whether it gets better or worse, will depend on the cause of your pain and how the pain responds to any treatments.
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When To See Your Doctor
Mild, short-lived pain in the lower left abdomen that goes away on its own typically does not require medical care. But pain in this area that persists, recurs, progresses or is severe should never be ignored, as this symptom might signal a serious medical problem.
According to Dr. Borkar, pain on the lower left side that comes with lower back pain, unintentional weight loss, severe or worsening abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting and blood in the stool all require a trip to your GI doctor for an evaluation.
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Can I Use Nsaids To Treat My Pain
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are over-the-counter pain relievers commonly used to treat pain and swelling.
At one point or another, you have probably tried an NSAID like ibuprofen or naproxen to help with a headache or swollen ankle.
Its a well-documented fact that NSAIDs can cause a number of damaging and dangerous side effects.
NSAIDs increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Even if you have no other risk factors, like obesity or high blood pressure, NSAIDs can still increase your risk of a deadly heart attack or disabling stroke.
And if you are using NSAIDs to treat acute or chronic pain of the spine, they may actually be the cause of your stomach pain.
According to the FDA, NSAIDs can cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues, ranging from mild indigestion to life-threatening bleeding.
Gastrointestinal bleeding, which is bleeding in the stomach or elsewhere in the digestive tract, is rare among people who use NSAIDs only occasionally. But the risk goes up for people who use them regularly.
Your risk of a severe GI bleed also goes up if you:
> are over the age of 65> have a history of stomach ulcers> regularly drink alcohol> take blood thinners > take corticosteroids
Thankfully, there are other ways to treat your back and stomach pain.
Key Takeaway: NSAIDs may be contributing to your stomach pain and putting you at risk of serious, even life-threatening complications.
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Group 1features Suggesting Hospital Referral
There are very clear signs of definite surgical pathology with a large number of typical features of disease, for example classic appendicitis. In these patients the management plan is straightforward and little further investigation is needed in the emergency department. These patients should, therefore, be referred to the appropriate inpatient team .
Diagnosis Of Abdominal Pain: Essential Tests
Your doctor will take a detailed history of the onset of pain, site of pain and the severity. He will inquire about the associated symptoms like vomiting, jaundice etc. Then he/she will perform a detailed clinical examination. He will press your abdomen to understand where you feel pain and to check for any swelling in the abdomen. With utmost gentleness he/she will try to localise the site of pain, type of pain and the likely reason of pain. With the help of a stethoscope, your doctor will listen so that he can understand what is going on with your abdomen and the problems that exists. This information enables your doctor to order particular tests needed for diagnosis and mangement of the current problem. The following are some of the tests that are used to diagnose abdominal pain after a physical examination.
Upper endoscopy is a test that enables your doctor to examine your esophagus, stomach and small part of small intestine. Upper endoscopy is also known as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or OGD. A thin and flexible tube, called an endoscope, is put into your mouth and gradually proceeded through the throat into the food pipe, stomach and the intestines. At the end of the tube is a camera that enables your doctor to view your stomach and small intestine thoroughly.
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Stomach And Back Pain At The Same Time
For most of us, its not uncommon to have an occasional stomachache or acute back pain. But what does it mean if both are happening at the same time? This could be a coincidence, but it may also be concerning to notice two disconnected symptoms. The combination of pains may make daily activities difficult or be distracting. If the pain reaches this level, it may be a good idea to visit an Atlanta MRI center to rule out any serious conditions that could cause both problems at the same time.
Fix The Root Of The Problem
Muscle imbalances happen when certain muscles work too hard and others dont work hard enough.
Your muscles are designed to complement, not compete with one another. One overly weak or dominant muscle can literally pull everything off track.
I recommend learning more about my targeted Muscle Balance Therapy program.
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Causes And Risk Factors Of Abdominal Pain
While we dont usually feel the inner workings of our abdomen, pain can occur when there is a disruption of the normal functioning of an organ or area of tissue inside.
Abdominal pain can be caused by inflammation , organ distention or stretching , or loss of blood supply .
Some prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as dietary supplements, can cause stomach pain. Medications can do this by irritating the stomach, leading to nausea, pain, and diarrhea, or by slowing digestion, leading to constipation. Be sure to check the label of any drug you take to see if abdominal pain is listed as a possible side effect.
- Lead poisoning, often from eating paint chips
- Emotional upset
Use The Right Kind Of Heating Pad
Traditional heating pads feel relaxing, but they only heat the top layers of your tissues.
What you need is a heating pad that targets deep muscle tissue and internal organs, such as a heating pad that uses far infrared waves.
The body responds to this deep-heating effect by improving blood flow to the area.
Improved blood flow = improved healing.
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