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Causes for Severe Abdominal Pain & Swelling

author image Elle Paula
Elle Paula has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.
Causes for Severe Abdominal Pain & Swelling
Severe abdominal pain and swelling may indicate a serious underlying condition. Photo Credit Nombril image by Gautier Willaume from Fotolia.com

Everyone experiences abdominal pain and swelling at some point in his or her life. In most cases, abdominal pain and swelling are caused by air or increased gas in the stomach and do not indicate a serious condition. When abdominal pain and swelling are severe, it can indicate serious infections or inflammation of the organs.


The appendix is a small pouch located near the lower right side of the abdomen whose function is unknown. The inside of the appendix is called the appendiceal lumen. Mucus that is created by the appendix is passed through the appendiceal lumen and travels into the large intestine. An obstruction of the appendiceal lumen can cause an accumulation of mucus in the appendix as well as buildup of bacteria, which causes inflammation and infection known as appendicitis. Possible obstructions include feces, enlarged lymph tissues, inflammatory bowel diseases and physical trauma to the abdomen. Severe abdominal pain is the most common symptom of appendicitis, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Other symptoms include abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea and low fever.

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Acute Cholecystitis

Acute cholecystitis is the sudden inflammation of the gallbladder. In most cases, acute cholecystitis occurs when gallstones block the bile ducts and cause bile to accumulate in the gallbladder. The buildup of bile results in increased pressure and irritation that can cause infection or holes in the gallbladder. MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health, notes that occasionally tumors or severe illness can cause acute cholecystitis. Symptoms of acute cholecystitis include severe pain in the upper right side or middle of the abdomen; abdominal fullness and swelling; fever; nausea; vomiting; jaundice; and abnormal colored stools. Some cases of acute cholecystitis can be treated with antibiotics, pain medication and a low-fat diet. Those who experience recurrent episodes of acute cholecystitis may require surgery to remove the gallbladder.


The pancreas, a flat gland located behind the stomach, is responsible for producing enzymes to aid in digestion and hormones to help regulate blood sugar. Occasionally, enzymes produced by the pancreas can become activated prematurely. This results in inflammation of the pancreas, which is known as pancreatitis. Common causes of pancreatitis include gallstones, alcohol abuse, prior abdominal surgery, smoking, cystic fibrosis, infection, physical trauma and pancreatic cancer, according to MayoClinic.com. Those with pancreatitis experience severe abdominal pain, swelling, abdominal tenderness, nausea and vomiting. Pancreatitis is a serious condition that usually requires hospitalization. During hospitalization, intravenous fluids and pain medications will be given to stabilize the condition. Once stabilized, treatment for pancreatitis is dependent on the underlying cause.

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