If Your Stomach Hurts Suddenly
Acute stomach pain comes on quickly and lasts for a limited amount of time, typically a few hours to a few days. It’s usually caused by external factors, like a particular food or contaminant that didn’t agree with your stomach. Even people with completely healthy digestive tracts will experience occasional stomach pain.
Why Do I Have Stomach Pain And Diarrhea
Abdominal pain and diarrhea can be all-too familiar, and nearly everybody will suffer from this combination at some point during their lifetime. But how do I know if my stomach pain is serious?
Having diarrhea with stomach pain is a common symptom of stomach flu. The good news is, the discomfort and pain usually disappear within a few days. However, there are other reasons you may have stomach cramps or diarrhea, and its important to know when to see a doctor and when to ride the symptoms out.
Read on to learn about the different possible causes of stomach pain and diarrhea, how to prevent some instances of it, and when to give your physician a call.
When In Doubt About Your Abdominal Symptoms Physicians Say Its Best To Call Your Doctor Or Head To The Er
The egg salad didn’t taste quite right, but you were hungry. Or maybe your craving for cheesecake overrode the punishment you knew your lactose intolerance would inflict. You expect stomach distress in situations like these, but other times, abdominal pain can come out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s severe enough or lasts for so long that you know it’s not simply a matter of eating something that didn’t agree with you.
Digestive system issues account for 51 million visits to doctors’ offices and emergency departments yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The severity of the pain, its location within your abdominal area, and accompanying symptoms may provide clues to the origin of the pain and whether or not you should seek help immediately. Here are some of the most common signs your tummy troubles need more than an over-the-counter remedy.
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What Is Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain is discomfort anywhere in your belly from ribs to pelvis. Its often called stomach pain or a stomach ache, although the pain can be coming from any number of internal organs besides your stomach.
A brief episode of pain is called acute, which means ‘of recent onset.’ When you have abdominal pain for three months or longer, its considered a chronic or ongoing problem, although this time period is not exact. For example, acute appendicitis is nearly always an acute condition, in contrast to irritable bowel syndrome, which may result in chronic cramping that can span years or longer.
Abdominal pain comes in many forms, and may range from cramps that come and go to sudden, stabbing pains to constant, dull abdominal aching. Even mild pain can be an early sign of a serious condition, which is why healthcare providers often monitor these patients for changes in their conditions.
Keep in mind that abdominal pain is a subjective symptom that cannot be reliably measured by healthcare professionals. The intensity of the pain is what you say that it is.
Other Abdominal Pain Causes
Abdominal pain can also occur due to the following.
- Bowel issues: Both diarrhea and constipation can cause abdominal pain symptoms. If your bowel movements are less than normal, you can expect some form of abdominal pain.
- Stress: Many diseases can come from mental and physical distress. Anxiety and panic disorders are connected to abdominal pain as well.
- Internal injuries: Internal bleeding, stomach ulcers, and tearing in any of the stomach muscles, lining, or nearby organs can cause severe abdominal pain that should be treated as soon as possible.
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When To Seek Immediate Medical Help
Severe abdominal pain is a greater cause for concern. If it starts suddenly and unexpectedly, and persists, it should be regarded as a medical emergency, especially if the pain is concentrated in a particular area.
or go to your nearest hospital emergency department if this is the case.
If you feel pain in the area around your ribs, see the section on chest pain.
When Stomach Pain Is An Emergency
Stomach pain can sometimes be caused by a life-threatening condition. Some examples are:
- Bowel obstruction, which is when food or waste blocks the intestine
- Bowel perforation, which is a hole in the intestine that leaks food material
These emergencies usually cause pain that feels extreme. Your stomach pain may be urgent if:
- You are pregnant
- Your pain started within a week of abdominal surgery
- Your pain started after a procedure in your stomach area, such as an endoscopy
- You have ever had surgery on your digestive tract, such as gastric bypass, a colostomy, or a bowel resection
- Your pain started shortly after an abdominal trauma
- Your abdomen is bruised or rapidly expanding
Even if you don’t have these symptoms, get help if you feel unusually severe pain.
Sometimes stomach pain is mild at first but gets worse after a few hours. You may also develop other symptoms. Get help right away if you have any of these symptoms along with stomach pain:
- Extremely hard abdomen
- Inability to have a bowel movement, along with vomiting
- Pain in neck, shoulder, or between shoulder blades
- Vision changes
If you have these symptoms, call for an ambulance or have someone drive you to the emergency room. You should not “wait and see” or take medicine for the pain. Get help right away.
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Sudden And Severe Onset Stomach Pain
When mid-abdominal pain occurs suddenly especially in people with a history of peptic ulcer disease or in those who take excessive amounts of aspirin or NSAIDs it may be a sign of a perforation that could require emergency surgery. A tear could leak air and gastric content which can lead to a condition called peritonitis, and eventually, septic shock. Surgery would be required to seal the perforation.
Figuring Out The Cause
When youre suffering from stomach pain, diarrhea, or both, one of the most important things is to try to determine the root cause. Quite often, this type of abdominal pain is due to stomach flu or another virus, spoiled food, or food that one has developed a sensitivity to. Unless diarrhea and pain are accompanied by other severe symptoms, such as a high fever, the best course of action is to wait it out.
If you feel that it is a reaction to food, most times symptoms will subside in a day or two. However, there are some instances of food poisoning that definitely warrant a doctor visit but again, you will see other severe symptoms along with general GI upset.
If you think you may be having a reaction to food, such as those with celiac disease who have a sensitivity to gluten, its worthwhile to try an elimination diet to confine the source of the upset. It is possible to suddenly develop a food sensitivity later in life its also estimated that up to 20 percent of Americans have food sensitivity. Please note that celiac is a serious condition and ongoing exposure to gluten can cause increasing damage. Celiac should not be self-diagnosed.
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Reasons Your Stomach Hurts
Find out why your belly is bellowing in agonyand how to calm it down fast
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When To Go To The Er With Stomach Pain
You should seek immediate medical attention or go to the ER if you have:
- Constant or severe abdominal pain
- Pain associated with a high fever
- Changes in pain intensity or location, such as going from a dull ache to a sharp stab or starting in one area and radiating to another
- Pain accompanied by other serious or unusual symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or change in behavior
- Pain localized to one particular area
- Right lower quadrant could indicate appendicitis
- Right upper quadrant could indicate cholecystitis or a gallbladder infection
- Left lower quadrant could indicate diverticulitis or a colon infection
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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.
Diagnosis Of Stomach Pain After Meals
Your doctor will ask you a number of questions about your diet, lifestyle, and medical history. All of these can significantly affect the digestive system.
Doctors can use computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans to diagnose gastrointestinal pain, but it is not always easy to generate accurate images of the digestive system using these methods.
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When Is It Serious
Most of the time, you can manage bloating on your own. But if you also feel weak or lose your appetite, or have diarrhea, weight loss, fever, belly pain, or blood in your stool, talk to your doctor. To find out whatâs going on, they may take a stool sample or an X-ray of your small intestine, or test you for lactose intolerance or celiac disease.
Severe Stomach Pain After Eating A Fatty Meal
If you find yourself doubled over after eating a high-fat meal, you may be experiencing a gallbladder attack. “Women are especially prone to gallbladder disease,” says Hardeep Singh, MD, gastroenterologist from St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, CA. “Overweight women in their 40s are at highest risk.” The pain becomes worse after eating, lasts 30 to 60 minutes, and may come and go, becoming more constant and severe over time, says Singh.
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Why Your Tummy Sounds Off
“There’s a medical word for these bowel sounds: It’s called borborygmus,” says Joseph Fiorito, MD, chair of gastroenterology at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut. The reasons for the rumbling can be attributed to specific foods, eating habits and, occasionally, an underlying GI condition.
The reason why your stomach is making noise has everything to do with your body’s natural anatomy. “The inside of your abdomen is not a fixed place,” says Dr. Fiorito. “It moves around, so when you eat something, your stomach contracts, affecting the motility and movement of food and drink.” This could mean that you hear what sounds like liquids sloshing in your stomach. You may also hear gurgling when air passes through your GI system after you’ve eaten solid food. “A lot of this is normal, though some people may be more sensitive or in tune with it than others,” he says.
But there are those times when you haven’t eaten anything and you still hear growling. Is it really your stomach alerting you that it’s lunchtime? “If your stomach growls when you’re not eating, it’s due to what’s called a mass movement contraction that occurs from your stomach down through your colon,” explains Dr. Fiorito. “It’s designed to clean your bowel of air between meals.”
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, recommending acetaminophen instead.
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Sudden Stomach Cramps With Diarrhoea
If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause may be a tummy bug . This means you have a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel. It should get better without treatment after a few days.
Gastroenteritis may be caused by:
- coming into close contact with someone who’s infected
- eating contaminated food
If you have repeated bouts of stomach cramps and diarrhoea, you may have a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome .
When To See A Healthcare Provider
In the majority of cases, pain in the stomach is nothing to worry about and will often resolve on its own.
However, if you have severe stomach pain that wakes you from sleep, you should speak with your healthcare provider.
You should also call 911 or seek immediate medical help if you have morning stomach pain and you also experience any of the following:
- Are in treatment for cancer
- Have pain in the chest, neck, or shoulders
- Can’t pass stools and are vomiting
- Have blood in your stool
- Are vomiting blood
- Are pregnant or might be pregnant
- Have had recent trauma to the abdomen through an injury
You should also contact your healthcare provider if you have stomach pain and:
- You have diarrhea that lasts longer than five days
- Your pain in your stomach lasts a week or more
- You have bloating that continues for more than two days
- You have pain that doesn’t improve in 24 to 48 hours or it becomes worse or more frequent
- You have a burning feeling when urinating
- You urinate frequently
- You have a fever over 100Â°F for adults or 100.4Â°F for children
- You have lost your appetite
- You have bleeding from the vagina that persists
- You have unintentional weight loss
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Question: Why Does My Stomach Hurt When I Do Sit Ups
Muscle strain Overworking your abdominal muscles could cause them to spasm. Spasms due to muscle strain are most likely to occur in people who do strenuous and frequent exercise, especially crunches and situps. Other symptoms of muscle strain are: tenderness or pain in your abs.
Treatments For Stomach Pain After Meals
Mild cases are usually treated at home without too much trouble. Doctors recommend putting yourself on a light diet, eating in frequent but small amounts for 24 to 36 hours until you can tolerate more substantial foods. Sports drinks, soups and broths, and juices are highly recommended.
More serious cases are treated with a range of therapies. Doctors look for structural or functional problems in the digestive tract itself to identify and treat the problem at its source. Various interventions may be employed in that case, such as:
- Intravenous drug infusion
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Symptoms Of A Tight Stomach
A tight stomach is often described as a sensation in which the muscles in your stomach feel tight for a period time. It may feel similar to abdominal bloating, and is often accompanied by other symptoms such as cramping. The sensation may be described differently by different people.
Some common causes of tight stomach include the following:
Severe Acute Pain In The Lower Right Side Of The Abdomen
A sudden pain in the lower part of the abdomen may be a sign of appendicitis. It may also be accompanied by a fever. Pain often begins around the belly button area and becomes worse with time. Vomiting or constipation or diarrhea along with the pain also indicate it’s time to go to the emergency room. Physicians recommend seeing a doctor right away if the pain comes on suddenly over several hours or is persistent. Appendicitis often requires surgery. If left untreated, a ruptured appendix can be deadly.
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What To Expect At Your Office Visit
Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your specific symptoms, the location of pain and when it occurs will help your provider detect the cause.
LOCATION OF YOUR PAIN
- Where do you feel the pain?
- Is it all over or in one spot?
- Does the pain move into your back, groin, or down your legs?
TYPE AND INTENSITY OF YOUR PAIN
- Is the pain severe, sharp, or cramping?
- Do you have it all the time, or does it come and go?
- Does the pain wake you up at night?
HISTORY OF YOUR PAIN
- Have you had similar pain in the past? How long has each episode lasted?
- When does the pain occur? For example, after meals or during menstruation?
- What makes the pain worse? For example, eating, stress, or lying down?
- What makes the pain better? For example, drinking milk, having a bowel movement, or taking an antacid?
- What medicines are you taking?
OTHER MEDICAL HISTORY
- Have you had a recent injury?
- Are you pregnant?