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Do waves of pain in your abdomen seem to creep up on you time and again? Does abdominal pain keep you from staying active or enjoying the things you love? While much abdominal pain is acute and short-lived in nature (like gas, menstrual cramps, indigestion, pulled muscle, UTI, or kidney stones), there are a host of causes for more long-lasting, or chronic, abdominal pain that seems to come and go in bouts.
Chronic-intermittent abdominal pain can indicate a more serious underlying problem which should be addressed with a medical evaluation. Common causes of chronic-intermittent abdominal pain in women include:
When an organ, usually the intestines, bulges through a weakened or damaged wall of tissue holding it in, you get a hernia. An inguinal hernia results from a loop of intestines protruding down through the abdominal wall resulting in a swollen bump, tenderness, and groin /abdomen pain especially when lifting, bending over or coughing. A hernia belt may provide compression to help relieve symptoms.
A hiatal hernia on the other hand is the intestines pushing up through the hiatal, or the opening in the chest cavity where the esophagus travels down to the stomach. This type of hernia leads to severe heartburn, belching, chest or abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, and even vomiting blood.
The complex reproductive system in women is quite possibly the greatest feat of biological design, however, not everything goes along as designed all the time. Some women experience mild to severe abdominal pain when the tissue that is supposed to line the inside of the uterus, the endometrium, actually grows outside of the uterus on organs like the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvis.
Cysts can form, other tissues can become irritated, and the endometrium can even build up scar tissue and cause organs to stick together. Symptoms of endometriosis include heavy and painful periods, potential pain when having intercourse, pain when you go to the bathroom (especially when on your period), fatigue, bloating, constipation, and even fertility problems.
Another repercussion of the female reproductive cycle, ovarian cysts, especially large ones which require medical attention, can lead to bloating, pelvic pain, a heaviness in your abdomen, and even fever and vomiting. The ovaries which sit to either side of the uterus are small organs responsible for housing a woman’s eggs and dropping one into the uterus with each monthly fertility cycle. Ovaries are actually only the size of an almond.
Occasionally a fluid-filled sac (cysts) will form in or on one or both ovaries and can be totally harmless. In fact, most women grow ovarian cysts at some point in their lives but they lead to little or no pain. Other times, however, they can be large enough to cause discomfort and even rupture leading to more serious symptoms that require medical treatment.
Mittelschmerz, or mid-cycle pain in the lower abdomen, can leave many women feeling like they have a real pain in their side. Typically targeted to one side of the body or the other, mittelschmerz occurs roughly 2 weeks before a woman’s next menstrual period when she has begun ovulating.
The ovary which is releasing an egg during your cycle also releases blood and follicular fluid surrounding the egg. It is believed that the fluid and blood may irritate the abdominal cavity lining, leading to pain, either dull or cramping, or more severe and sudden. Mittelschmerz typically goes away within a couple hours or a couple days maximum, and rarely requires medical treatment.
Did you know that heart disease kills just as many women each year as it does men? When coronary artery disease specifically reduces the amount of blood being sent to the heart, angina results leading to chronic or intermittent chest pain. Coronary artery disease, also known as atherosclerotic heart disease, results from plaque buildup on artery walls which narrow and constrict arteries, allowing less and less blood flow through to the heart.
While relatively common, angina can turn into a serious medical problem involving pressure, tightness, and pain in your chest. While men with angina may experience mild to severe chest pressure, women might actually not and instead feel nauseous, extremely fatigued, short of breath or stabbing pain in the neck, shoulder, back, or jaw.