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Abdominal tenderness, or point tenderness in your abdomen, is when pressure on an area of your abdomen causes pain. It may also feel sore and tender. If the removal of pressure causes pain, then that’s known as rebound tenderness or Blumberg sign. Point tenderness is often a sign that something is wrong with one or more organs in the area.
All disorders that cause abdominal point tenderness are medical emergencies. Seek emergency medical help if you have abdominal tenderness, especially if you also have a fever. Untreated abdominal point tenderness can be life-threatening. Some conditions that may cause abdominal point tenderness:
Abdominal point tenderness is generally a sign of inflammation or other acute processes in one or more organs. The organs are located around the tender area. Acute processes mean sudden pressure caused by something. For example, twisted or blocked organs can cause point tenderness.
Some common causes of abdominal point tenderness are:
Common causes for women include:
These conditions are all linked with some sort of inflammation. Inflammation causes swelling, which creates pressure inside the abdomen and results in tenderness.
Symptoms that go along with abdominal point tenderness are:
Your doctor will take a complete medical history and perform a physical examination. They’ll want to know about all the symptoms you have and when they started. Your doctor will also want to know what makes your symptoms feel better or worse.
Your doctor can examine the area by touch. The region where there’s pain may show an issue with certain organs. For example:
The most well-known type of point tenderness is McBurney point. It is located in the right lower quadrant, in the area of your appendix. Point tenderness over McBurney point means your appendix is very inflamed. At this point, your appendix is at risk for rupturing.
Problems with pelvic organs, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes, can also cause right or left lower quadrant tenderness.
You may need to take the following tests to help determine the cause of abdominal point tenderness:
Treatment for abdominal point tenderness depends on the underlying cause. Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen for abdominal pain as this increases your risk for stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. It may also worsen your condition.
For appendicitis, you may get medicine and fluids through a port in a vein in your hand or arm (intravenous antibiotics). You may also have an appendectomy. This is the surgical removal of the appendix through your abdomen.
You may need surgery to remove part of the colon if it’s obstructed.
Hernias, a twisted fallopian tube, and ectopic pregnancies may also need surgery to correct such structural irregularities.
Your doctor may perform a laparoscopic examination if you are very ill and tests don’t show which organ is causing abdominal point tenderness. A laparoscopic examination is a surgical procedure that requires general anesthesia. It involves inserting a laparoscope (a thin tube with a light attached to it) into the abdomen through a small incision in the skin. It allows doctors to see which organ inside your abdomen or pelvis is causing the problem.
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and low blood pressure. If you’ve been experiencing vomiting and diarrhea, you may also get fluids and electrolytes intravenously. Your doctor will introduce these fluids through a vein in your arm or hand. These fluids help maintain your blood pressure and acid-base balance.
Severe dehydration can cause dangerously low blood pressure (shock). Shock reduces blood flow to all vital organs. It can also damage your kidneys, heart, and brain.
Once you’ve addressed the main cause of your abdominal tenderness, you can help ease any other symptoms with some simple home treatments.
The following tips can help reduce the inflammation:
Seeing your doctor for regular checkups is the best method of prevention. Some causes can’t be prevented, but you can help your body fight off infections. You can:
Written by: Verneda Lights and Erica Cirino
Medically reviewed on: Jan 17, 2017: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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