When To Contact A Medical Professional
Get medical help right away or call your local emergency number if you:
- Are currently being treated for cancer
- Are unable to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting
- Are vomiting blood or have blood in your stool
- Have chest, neck, or shoulder pain
- Have sudden, sharp abdominal pain
- Have pain in, or between, your shoulder blades with nausea
- Have tenderness in your belly, or your belly is rigid and hard to the touch
- Are pregnant or could be pregnant
- Had a recent injury to your abdomen
- Have difficulty breathing
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Abdominal Pain And Stomach Cramps
It is normal to have abdominal pain from time-to-time, caused by gas, stomach bugs, or even food poisoning. However, if you or a loved one is experiencing abdominal pain that you would describe as intense, crampy, and the pain doesnt go away in a day or two, or has been present on and off for weeks or longer, its time to see a healthcare provider to find out whats wrong.
When Should I Call The Doctor
Sometimes, what seems like one problem food poisoning, for example can turn out to be something more serious, like appendicitis.
- the pain is very strong
- you’re vomiting a lot
- you already have another health condition
- the pain gets worse over time, doesn’t go away, or wakes you up from sleep
Also let the doctor know if you:
- have pain when you pee
- have trouble pooping or peeing
- have blood in your poop or pee
- think the belly pain is from an injury
- might be pregnant
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Food Allergy Or Intolerance
Some people may be allergic to certain foods. These can irritate the stomach and may cause pain after eating.
An intolerance is a milder form of an allergy. Both allergies and intolerances can be caused by many different foods.
Common intolerances include gluten, wheat, and lactose.
People can keep a food diary if they think they might have an allergy.
A food diary is a written record of what they have consumed at each meal, including drinks and snacks. They should also include a note of when their stomach hurts.
Keeping a diary can help determine the foods causing an issue. People can then cut this food out of their diet.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About My Abdominal Pain
Always see your doctor if your pain is unexplained, persistent or severe, or if you have been injured or are pregnant.
Also, see your doctor if your pain is accompanied by any of these symptoms:
- Persistent fever.
- Pain in any other part of your body.
- Shortness of breath or symptoms that get worse with exertion.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
So many things can cause abdominal pain that its inevitable well all experience it from time to time. Common causes, such as gas and indigestion, menstrual cramps, or even food poisoning and the flu may be instantly recognizable. Other causes may be more mysterious. And sometimes stomach pain is a sign of an unsuspected or serious condition.
Your healthcare provider will always be interested in your abdominal pain, especially if its unexplained. Common causes are often easy to treat, and having your condition diagnosed can help you find relief. Even if your stomach pain is mild, make sure you see your healthcare provider if it doesnt go away, keeps coming back or gets worse.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/18/2022.
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When To Take Stomach Pain And Other Gi Issues Seriously
Everyone experiences stomach pain or other gastrointestinal issues from time-to-time. Many times, these can be minor issues that resolve themselves over time. However, if you or a loved one are experiencing troubling gut pain for more than a few days, it might be time for you to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or a gastroenterologist. Common GI issues include food poisoning, a stomach virus, irritable bowel syndrome , celiac disease, or any number of other conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease , such as Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis.
The information below will help you understand your symptoms and provide tools for you to find a physician and share your GI symptoms with them. Below are descriptions for the most frequently experienced symptoms of IBD.
Stomach Ache Risk Factors
Risk factors associated with stomach aches in children include:
- Psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression
- Emotional stress or disturbances
- Traumatic events such as abuse, a motor vehicle accident, or a poor home life
- Prior stomach infections
Some research suggests that eating a diet that is high in junk food may play a role in the onset of stomach aches in children, although more research is needed to determine whether a poor diet can be a risk factor for stomach pain.
Although the risk factors for headaches and stomach aches vary, one of the most common risk factors for both ailments is stress.
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A Bladder Or Kidney Infection
Bladder infections can definitely cause abdominal pain, as well as painful and urgent urination, and/or blood in the urine. If its a kidney infection youre dealing with, you may also have a fever, chills, thigh pain, and joint tenderness.
How to treat it: Most cases can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics, though severe cases may require hospitalization and IV antibiotics. In rare cases, surgery may be required, says Dr. Dann.
Change In Bowel Movement Frequency
There is no magic number of bowel movements we should all be having each day. Some people go three-to-four times a day, and that is normal for them. Others only move their bowels once a day and that is their normal. However, if you or a loved one experiences a significant change in bowel movement frequency, whether more or less often, its important to discuss this change with your healthcare provider.
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When To Call The Doctor About Abdominal Pain
If your abdominal pain is serious, doesn’t go away, or keeps coming back, talk to your doctor. Call 911 right away if your belly hurts because you had a recent injury there or if you have any chest pain.
You should also contact your doctor as soon as you can if you have symptoms along with the pain, such as:
- Can’t keep food down for more than 2 days
- Signs you’re getting dehydrated, including not urinating frequently, dark-colored urine, and being very thirsty
- Can’t have a bowel movement, especially if you’re also vomiting
- Pain when you pee, or you need to urinate often
Also call your doctor if:
- Your belly is tender to the touch
- Pain lasts more than a few hours
You may have other symptoms that could be a sign of a problem inside your body that needs treatment as soon as possible. Get medical care right away if you have abdominal pain and you also:
- Have unexplained weight loss
Belly Pain In The Lower Left Side That’s Worse When You Move
Abdominal pain in the left lower area of the abdomen may signify diverticulitis, small pockets in the colon that can become obstructed and tear. Traditional treatment includes antibiotics and stool softeners to reduce the risk of abscess formation. Physicians say according to recent research, antibiotics may no longer be needed in this scenario, and they recommend acetaminophen instead.
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Reasons Your Stomach Hurts
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What Does Your Stomachache Really Mean
A stomachache is one of the most common terms used to describe abdominal pain and/or discomfort, but in some cases, it may not be your stomach creating the problem.
The term stomachache, is not a good description because there are multiple organs in the abdomen besides the stomach that can cause pain, said Dr. Alexander Akhavan. While gastrointestinal aches occurring in the small intestine, colon, stomach or appendix might be the culprit, Akhavan notes that other conditions can cause abdominal pain as well.
These conditions include kidney stones, gallbladder issues, urinary tract infections and even sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Understanding whats causing your stomachache can help when seeking relief options.
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Diagnosis Of Abdominal Pain In Children
When a problem is quite obvious, no tests are needed. If tests are needed, they may include:
- other special tests
- review by a specialist doctor.
If your child does undergo tests, the doctor should explain the results to you. Some results may take a number of days to come back and these results will be sent to your local doctor.
You May Have A Longer
If you have a stomach ulcer, you may experience more pain when your stomach is empty as well. While antacids can help with this pain, you should consult a doctor if you think you may have a stomach ulcer. Irritable bowel syndrome , on the other hand, is characterized by lower stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas, or mucus in the stool. If your stomach pain is also accompanied by any of the aforementioned symptoms, ask your doctor about IBS.
Stomach pain spans a wide umbrella and it could be a symptom of any number of issues. If your stomach pain or discomfort persists, consult your doctor, as it could be an indication that you are dealing with a serious issue such as a pancreatic disease like pancreatitis , Crohns Disease, colitis, diverticulitis, gallstones, Celiac disease, or some other kind of food allergy.
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Stomach Cramps With Bloating
Stomach cramps with bloating are often caused by trapped wind, or constipation. This is a very common problem that can be embarrassing, but is easily dealt with. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend a product, which can be bought over the counter to treat the problem. If problems persist, you should see your GP.
Sometimes Stomach Pain Can Be Serious While Other Times It Isnt
Some conditions that cause stomach pain, upon diagnosis, require medical care. Per Oxford Academic, 1 in 10 patients suffering from abdominal pain are experiencing a symptom that stems from an acute disease, such as appendicitis , diverticulitis , biliary or pancreatic , or neoplastic diseases. However, unless youre experiencing other acute symptoms, your morning stomach pain is most likely harmless, due to gas, overeating, or constipation.
Stomach pain can also be caused by stress, depression or anxiety. Per U Chicago Medicine, high levels of cortisol the stress hormone can cause gastrointestinal discomfort while dealing with stress.
When a person is stressed, the adrenal glands make and release the hormone cortisol into the bloodstream, according to U Chicago Medicine. This causes the fight-or-flight response and can also trigger abdominal discomfort, stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and other symptoms.
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How Can I Prevent Stomach Bloating
If your stomach bloating is caused by diet or alcohol, you can help prevent it by making some lifestyle changes. Some good general guidelines include:
If the cause of your bloated stomach is something more specific, such as specific food intolerance, perimenopause or a medical condition, you might need a little help with diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Some options include:
You Have Crohn’s Disease
There is no known cause for Crohn’s disease, but it is typically related to your diet and genetics, says Dr. Jacobs. While it’s a chronic condition that requires ongoing monitoring and management, your doctor may recommend medication, diet changes, and surgery to curb symptoms and provide long-term relief.
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Gut Feeling: How To Know If Stomach Pain Is Serious
Abdominal pain is the single leading reason for emergency room visits in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accounting for more than 12 million of the nearly 139 million annual ER visits. Most people call it stomach pain, but it’s not always a stomach problem. Your abdomen holds many other organs, too, including your intestines , pancreas, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen and appendix.
So its not surprising that, just as with chest pain or a headache, it can be difficult to tell whats really going on in there when your tummy’s not feeling well. Add in other vague symptoms such as nausea and vomiting and you could have the stomach flu, food poisoning, gallstones, kidney stones or any number of other conditions.
Here are some ways to tell what the source of your pain is and when you should seek medical care.
Why Is My Stomach Bloated
The most common cause of stomach pain and bloating is excess intestinal gas. If you get a bloated stomach after eating, it may be a digestive issue. It might be as simple as eating too much too fast, or you could have a food intolerance or other condition that causes gas and digestive contents to build up. Your menstrual cycle is another common cause of temporary bloating. Sometimes a bloated stomach can indicate a more serious medical condition.
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Diverticulitis Or Diverticular Inflection:
Diverticula are small pockets that can form in the inside lining of the intestines. Theyre common in middle-aged and older people, but typically arent symptomatic unless they become inflamed or infected .
Mild cases can cause cramping in the lower stomach, often occurring on the left side of the abdomen. More advanced cases can cause severe pain, fever, tenderness, nausea/vomiting and changes in bowel movements.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
Some kinds of stomach pain need immediate attention. With others, you can call or visit your healthcare provider. It can be hard to know what you should do. Listen to your body and trust your instincts if you’re not sure.
If you have any of these symptoms along with stomach pain, call your healthcare provider within one to two days:
- Fever for three days or longer
- Loss of appetite
- Pain that gets worse or doesn’t get better within one or two days
You should also call your healthcare provider if you have stomach pain while being treated for cancer.
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You Have Ulcerative Colitis
Generally affecting the colon, ulcerative colitis is another type of inflammatory bowel disease and causes small ulcers throughout the entire colon or rectum, says Dr. Jacobs. Symptoms usually develop over time and include abdominal or rectal pain, bloody diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency to use the bathroom, fatigue, and weight loss. The stomach pain is worsened by foods high in sugar or saturated fats like cake, butter, coconut oil, and bacon.
The exact cause is unknown, but it may be a combination of genetics, stress, diet, and immune system dysfunction. If you experience severe abdominal pain after eating or see blood in your stool, contact a doctor. Treatment usually consists of anti-inflammatory medications, but surgery may be necessary in more extreme cases.
You Have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
SIBO occurs when there is an abnormal amount of bacteria in your small intestines. When there are too many bad bacteria, it overwhelms the good bacteria that is needed for digestion. It can cause bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain after meals due to poor digestion.
Risk factors of SIBO include advanced age, prior abdominal surgery, autoimmune disorders, or chronic constipation, says Dr. Vanderheyden.
Treatment involves antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria overgrowth and dietary changes, so Dr. Vanderheyden recommends checking in with a gastroenterologist if you suspect you have SIBO.
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What Is Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain is discomfort or other uncomfortable sensations that you feel in your belly area. Just about everybody at one time or another will get a bellyache.
Most causes of abdominal pain aren’t reasons to worry, and your doctor can easily diagnose and treat the problem. Sometimes, though, it can be a sign of a serious illness that needs medical attention.
When To See A Doctor About Stomach Pain
If your stomach problems stick around for a few days or more, its time to call your doctor and talk to them about any irregular stomach pains or frequent pain, diarrhea, nausea or constipation.
As you prepare for your appointment, keep track of what you eat or if theres anything about your lifestyle that may cause stomach pain, Dr. McKee says. Being aware of all noticeable symptoms you experience can help us determine the cause.
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Stomach Pain In Children
Stomach pains are common in children. Causes include indigestion, stress, or more serious cases like appendicitis. Stomach pain of three hours or less is usually not severe. Call your healthcare provider immediately if a child has a fever of 100.4F or other symptoms such as diarrhea that could lead to dehydration.