Abdominal discomfort, ranging from mild to severe sensations, occurs in the stomach area. Nearly everyone will experience a stomach ache at some stage.
While the majority of stomach pains are not alarming and can be readily managed by a healthcare professional, there are occasions when they may signal a more serious condition that necessitates medical care.
Types of stomach hurt
Various kinds of stomach pain exist, classified by the onset speed and duration:
- Acute pain develops within a few hours or days and might be accompanied by additional symptoms.
- Chronic pain persists for an extended period, ranging from weeks to months or longer, and can be intermittent.
- Progressive pain intensifies gradually and typically is associated with other symptoms.
Stomach Pain Causes
Stomach pain, whether it’s a slight discomfort or intense cramps, can stem from numerous sources. Common causes include indigestion, constipation, a stomach virus, or menstrual cramps.
Additional reasons could be:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Food allergies
- Kidney stones
- A urinary tract infection
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm (enlargement in the main artery of the belly)
- Bowel obstruction
- Cancers of the stomach, pancreas, liver, bile duct, gallbladder, or immune cells
- Ovarian cancer or cysts
- Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
- Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation)
- Reduced blood flow to the intestines due to a blocked vessel
- Ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg growing outside the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube).
Pain Experiencing three or more stomach aches within a three-month period, especially if they are intense enough to disrupt your daily activities, is what doctors refer to as “recurrent stomach pain.”
Symptoms of Recurrent Stomach Pain
This pain varies among individuals. It can appear and disappear suddenly, or be continuous. It’s often described as a persistent dull ache or sharp cramps in the stomach. Accompanying symptoms may include diarrhea or nausea.
When to Consult a Doctor for Stomach Pain
Seek medical advice if your stomach pain is severe, persistent, or recurrent. Dial 911 immediately if the pain is due to a recent abdominal injury or accompanies chest pain.
You should also promptly see a doctor if you experience:
- Inability to eat for over two days
- Signs of dehydration like infrequent urination, dark urine, or extreme thirst
- Inability to pass stools, particularly with vomiting
- Pain during urination or frequent urges to urinate
Contact your doctor if:
- Your abdomen is sensitive to touch
- The pain persists for several hours
Other concerning symptoms warranting immediate medical attention include:
- Vomiting blood
- Bloody or black, tarry stools
- Difficulty breathing
- Constant vomiting
- Abdominal swelling
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosing Stomach Pain
Given the multitude of potential causes, your doctor will conduct a comprehensive physical examination. They’ll inquire about your symptoms and the nature of your pain. For example, is it a sharp, intense pain or more of a mild, continuous ache?
Some additional questions your doctor might ask include:
- Is the pain localized to a specific area or spread across your abdomen?
- When do you experience pain? Is it constant or more frequent at certain times, like in the morning or night?
- If the pain is intermittent, how long does it last each episode?
- Do certain foods or alcohol trigger the pain?
- Do you experience pain during your menstrual cycle?
- How long have you been experiencing pain?
- Does the pain radiate to your lower back, shoulder, groin, or buttocks?
- Are you taking any medications or herbal supplements?
- Could you be pregnant?
- Are there any activities or positions that relieve the pain, such as eating or lying on a particular side?
- Are there activities or positions that exacerbate the pain?
- Have you sustained any injuries recently?
After the examination and questioning, you might need further tests to determine the cause of your pain, which could include:
- Stool or urine analysis
- Blood testing
- Barium swallows or enemas
- Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy
- CT scan
- Upper endoscopy