Pains in the lower back and abdomen -- coupled with unexplained weight loss -- can indicate an underlying medical condition, which may be serious. If you have this trio of symptoms, see your doctor promptly to rule out dangerous disease. If you experience severe abdominal pain with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever, seek emergency medical care.
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Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches in your digestive tract -- usually within the large intestine -- become infected or inflamed. Diverticulitis is more common in people over 40; a sedentary lifestyle, a diet low in fiber and obesity all increase the risk. Sudden severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen is a primary symptom; in some cases, the pain can radiate to your back. Because there are so many reasons for lower back pain, doctors sometimes overlook diverticulitis as a possible cause. Along with pain, you may experience changes in bowel habits -- such as episodes of diarrhea or constipation -- nausea and vomiting, and fever. Diverticulitis is diagnosed with physical examination, blood tests or computer-directed X-rays called CT scans. Mild cases of diverticulitis may respond to rest and dietary changes; your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics. More severe cases of diverticulitis -- especially cases in which there is a perforation or an abscess -- may require surgery.
Crohn's disease -- also known as regional enteritis -- is an inflammatory condition that causes gastrointestinal ulcers, usually in the small intestine and colon. It is triggered by an abnormal autoimmune system response. The cause is unknown, but genetics may play a role. Along with abdominal pain and weight loss, you may experience diarrhea, bloody stools, anemia and fever. Some patients develop sacroileitis or ankylosing spondylitis, inflammations of the spine, which can cause back pain. Symptoms of Crohn's disease can come and go unpredictably, with periods of remission interspersed with flares, during which symptoms reappear. Possible complications include intestinal obstruction, bowel perforation, fistulas and abscesses. Crohn's disease is diagnosed with blood tests, radiologic imaging tests and endoscopic procedures. It is treated with anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, corticosteroids and immunomodulating drugs, which suppress the immune system. Your doctor may also try a genetically engineered medicine, such as antitumor necrosis factor alpha antibodies.
A sudden, penetrating pain in the lower back, accompanied by abdominal pain, is a primary symptom of an Addisonian crisis, the acute adrenal insufficiency that can occur in Addison's disease. Severe vomiting, diarrhea and loss of consciousness are other signs of an Addisonian crisis, usually seen in untreated Addison's disease or in cases in which diagnosed Addison's patients are not taking their medications. Addison's disease occurs when your body produces insufficient cortisol, and features symptoms of muscle weakness, decreased appetite with weight loss, darkening of skin, low blood pressure, muscle and joint pains and mood changes. See your doctor if you have symptoms of Addison's disease. If you have symptoms of an Addisonian crisis, seek emergency medical care. Addison's disease may be treated with corticosteroids or androgen replacement therapy; an Addisonian crisis is usually treated with hydrocortisone, saline solution and dextrose.
It is possible that your symptoms of abdominal pain, lower back pain and weight loss have a harmless explanation, or one that is of only minor medical significance. A bout of viral gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, can cause a day or two of abdominal cramping, while poor posture or too-strenuous exercise can cause episodes of lower back pain. Unintentional weight loss could result from a lifestyle change, such as an increased activity level or a more physically demanding job. However, you should see your doctor for diagnosis if you have persistent or severe back or abdominal pains along with unexplained weight loss.