Plainly put, stomach pain is pain that occurs in the general tummy area or the area between the chest and the pelvic region. Stomach pains can occur in the form of cramps, a dull ache, or a sharp pain.
Stomach pains usually disappear on their own and are not serious. However, if the stomach pain is severe and chronic then it is a cause for concern and needs to be diagnosed by a doctor.
What common symptoms accompany stomach pain?
The common symptoms that usually accompany stomach pain are:
- Flatulence (passing of gas)
- Discomfort in the upper left or right; middle; or lower left or right abdomen
- Chest discomfort
What are the more serious symptoms accompanying severe stomach pain?
The more serious symptoms that cause stomach pain and would require a medical investigation are:
- Painful urination
- Lack of urination
- Abrupt cessation of bowel movements
- Blood in stools
- Black stools
What are the potential causes of stomach pain?
In general usual stomach pains are caused by:
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Menstruation cramps in women
- Stomach infection such as Gastroenteritis or stomach flu
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Food poisoning
What are the more serious causes that can cause severe stomach pain?
Some health issues can cause severe stomach pain. They include:
- Endometriosis in women
- Inflammation of an organ such as appendicitis, or colitis
- Intestinal obstruction
- Gallstones blocking the bile duct
- Hepatitis causing liver swelling
- Loss of blood supply to an organ, for example, ischemic colitis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Stomach or peptic ulcers
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) or Bladder infections
- Cardiac conditions such as atypical angina or congestive heart failure
- Organ cancer
- A hiatal hernia
- Parasitic infections
How to discern the seriousness of stomach pain?
First of all, notice what type of pain it is. Is it accompanied by cramps? Does it come and go? Is it a sharp shooting pain?
Notice what other symptoms are accompanying the pain. If the pain is crampy accompanied by gas it could be related to menstruation if you are a woman. If it is accompanied by vomiting it could be related to indigestion, food intolerance, or acidity.
If the cramps are severe it could mean the intestines are vigorously contracting.
If accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting you will need to get a medical diagnosis because it could be stomach infection or something more serious.
If it is due to a more serious issue such as appendicitis you will feel a dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen which becomes sharp as it progresses to the lower right abdomen. This pain is accompanied by and/or vomiting.
If it is acute pancreatitis you may experience a steady pain in the upper abdomen and upper back.
In any case, if stomach pain is steady, severe and is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, blood in stools, or even cessation of bowel and bladder movement and any of the other serious symptoms mentioned above you need to get a medical examination done by a doctor immediately.
How long does stomach pain last?
The seriousness of the stomach pain also depends on how long the pain lasts or if it comes and goes intermittently. This, in turn, depends on the cause of the stomach pain.
Stomach pain and discomfort caused by acidity, indigestion, gastritis, constipation, and even food allergies and intolerance will not continue beyond a few hours.
If the pain is related to acid-related conditions such as GERD or ulcers the pain keeps occurring over a period of weeks or even months. If the pain is related to IBS it will wax and wane for a period of weeks, months and even years.
If the pain is related to organ cancer or conditions such as a hernia it will continue till proper treatment is administered and there is a recovery from the underlying condition.
What makes the stomach pain worse?
Sudden actions such as coughing or sneezing may make the pain worse. And of course for serious conditions, if treatment is not taken immediately the pain may become severe with serious consequences.
How is the cause of stomach pain diagnosed?
If the stomach pain persists you will need to visit a general physician who will ask you questions regarding your medical history, any recent illnesses, the food you ate recently, if you suffer from allergies or any food intolerance. The doctor will perform a medical examination by pressing different parts of your abdomen to find any signs of tenderness, inflammations, mass growth.
He may also suggest you undertake the following tests based on the symptoms accompanying the stomach pain :
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Stool test
- Endoscopic test
- CT scan
What is the treatment for stomach pain?
If the cause of the stomach pain is stomach infections or acidity the doctor may suggest a change of diet. He may suggest you eat less or non-spicy foods and drink plenty of water and clear juices. Even in cases of IBS, a change of diet can work wonders.
If the cause of stomach pain is more serious the doctor may suggest surgery i.e. if the causes necessitate it, and prescribe medications.