Stomach ache, tummy ache, abdominal pain, or belly pain. Whatever you want to call it, they all refer to a type of pain that happens in the abdominal area. Major organs located in the abdominal area include your intestines (small and large), kidneys, appendix (a part of the large intestine), spleen, stomach, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas. Any infection or damage to these organs can cause stomach pain.
Stomach pain comes from the abdominal muscle, from organs within the abdomen or organs near the abdomen. Abdominal pain can be described as crampy, achy, dull, intermittent or sharp. Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections that affect the stomach and intestines may also cause significant abdominal pain.
What are the causes of stomach pain?
Stomach pain can be caused by many conditions. However, the main causes are an infection, inflammation, obstruction, and menstruation.
- Infection. Infection of the throat, intestines, and blood can cause bacteria to enter your digestive tract, resulting in abdominal pain.
- Inflammation. Inflammation, such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, colitis.
- Obstruction or blockage. Obstruction of the intestine, blockage of a bile duct by gallstones, swelling of the liver with hepatitis,
- Cramps associated with menstruation are also a potential source of lower abdominal pain, but more commonly these are known to cause pelvic pain.
Sometimes stomach pain can happen without infection, inflammation, or obstruction. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes stomach pain because of abnormal contractions of the intestinal muscles or abnormally sensitive nerves within the intestines. Besides irritable bowel syndrome, there are many other conditions that can cause stomach pain. These include the following:
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu);
- Acid reflux;
- Kidney infection;
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease;
- Irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon;
- Crohn’s disease;
- Lactose intolerance;
- Organ rupture or near-rupture;
- Gallbladder stones;
- Kidney stones;
- Kidney infection.
If you suffer from any of these conditions above, discuss with your doctor how you can manage your condition. When you condition is under control, your stomach pain will disappear.
What are the signs and symptoms of stomach pain?
Usually, when you feel pain, it is hard to describe other than it hurts. For doctors to find the best treatment for your stomach pain, you will need to know how to describe the pain. To better understand your pain, you should know the severity and type of pain, the location of the pain and what are the accompanying symptoms. You can describe your pain as mild, moderate or severe and sometimes rate your pain from 1 to 10 can help. Here are the different types of stomach pain:
- Generalized pain means that you feel it in more than half of your belly. This type of pain is more typical for a stomach virus, indigestion, or gas. If the pain becomes more severe, it may be caused by a blockage of the intestines.
- Localized pain is pain felt in one area of the abdomen. This type of pain is often caused by problems in a particular organ.
- Cramp-like pain is a pain that comes and goes. It may go away without treatment. Cramp-like pain can be from diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or flatulence. In women, it can be associated with menstruation, miscarriage, or complications in the female reproductive organs.
- Colicky pain occurs suddenly and may feel like a severe muscle spasm. It is a symptom of more severe conditions, such as gallstones or kidney stones.
The location of the pain within the abdomen may tell you the cause of your stomach ache:
- Lower abdomen pain may indicate an intestinal obstruction. In women, pain in the reproductive organs of the lower abdomen can be caused by severe menstrual pain (called dysmenorrhea), ovarian cysts, miscarriage, fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (ectopic pregnancy).
- Upper abdominal pain may be caused by gallstones, heart attack, hepatitis (liver inflammation), or pneumonia.
- Center of the abdomen might is from gastroenteritis, injury, or uremia (build up of waste products in your blood).
- Lower left abdominal pain may be caused by Crohn’s disease, cancer, kidney infection or ovarian cysts.
- Upper left abdominal pain is sometimes caused by the enlarged spleen, fecal impaction (hardened stool that can’t be eliminated), injury, kidney infection, heart attack, cancer.
- Lower right abdominal pain may be caused by appendicitis, hernia (when an organ protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles), kidney infection, cancer, or the flu.
- Upper right abdominal pain may be from hepatitis, injury or pneumonia.
Some common symptoms that are associated with your stomach pain are:
- Inability to keep food down for more than 2 days;
- Any signs of dehydration;
- Inability to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting;
- Painful or unusually frequent urination;
- The abdomen is tender to the touch;
- The pain is the result of an injury to the abdomen;
- The pain lasts for more than a few hours.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical care. Early treatment can prevent your condition from worsening.
What are some diagnostic tests for stomach pain?
Your doctor will diagnose base on your description of the pain and test results. Because there are many causes for stomach pain, your doctor may request some tests to find the cause of your pain.
Some questions that you can expect from your doctor are:
- How severe is your pain?
- Where is your pain located?
- What type of pain are you experiencing? Is it stabbing and severe? Is it a dull ache?
- When does the pain occur? Always? More often in the morning or at night? If the pain comes and goes, about how long does it last each time? Does it occur after eating certain types of foods or after drinking alcohol? During menstruation?
- How long have you had this pain?
- Does the pain also radiate into your lower back, shoulder, groin, or buttocks?
- Are you currently taking any medications or herbal supplements?
- Are you pregnant?
- Does any activity such as eating or lying on one side relieve the pain?
- Have you been injured recently?
Some tests and examinations your doctor may request are:
- Complete blood count (CBC), liver enzymes, pancreatic enzymes (amylase and lipase).
- Abdominal ultrasound, Computerized tomography (CT), Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or capsule enteroscopy.
What are the treatments for stomach pain?
Your treatment option depends on the severity and cause of your stomach pain. In some severe cases, surgery may be needed. Here are some treatment options for adults and children:
- For heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you can take an over-the-counter antacid or acid reducer.
- For constipation, you can take a mild stool softener or laxative.
- For pain, take acetaminophen. Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, because they can cause stomach irritation or bleeding.
- Provide clear fluids to sip, such as water, broth, or fruit juice diluted with water.
- Serve bland foods, such as plain bread, dry toast, rice, or gelatin.
- Avoid spicy or greasy foods and caffeinated or carbonated drinks until 48 hours after all symptoms have gone away.
- Encourage the child to have a bowel movement.
- Ask your child’s doctor before giving any medicine for abdominal pain. Drugs can mask or worsen the pain.
What are some management tips for stomach pain?
While some stomach pains are chronic, you can follow these steps to reduce and prevent stomach pain:
- Eat a healthy diet. Make sure that your meals are well-balanced and high in fiber
- Drink plenty of water each day.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat small meals more frequently.
- Exercise regularly.
- Limit foods that produce gas.
Stomach pain is often caused by overeating. Lying down too soon after eating may cause heartburn and abdominal pain. Try waiting at least two hours after eating before lying down.
If you have gas related stomach pain. Here are some gas-generating foods you should avoid:
- Legumes, especially dried beans and peas, baked beans, soy beans, lima beans;
- Dairy products such as milk, ice cream, cheese;
- Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, sauerkraut, kohlrabi, asparagus, potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, radishes, onions;
- Fruits such as prunes, apricots, apples, raisins, bananas;
- Foods containing wheat such as cereals, bread, and pastries;
- Fatty foods such as fried chicken and anything in cream sauces and gravies;
- Any carbonated beverage.
Stomach pain is a common type of pain that can be easily managed. If your stomach pain still continues after home treatment, it is time to discuss with your doctor the cause and best treatment for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
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