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Abdominal Pain Causes, Treatments – Why Does My Stomach Hurt?


These conditions may be behind why your stomach hurts, according to doctors

A sudden, stabbing stomach pain is one that’s hard to ignore, especially when it can be linked to almost anything—from a bad batch of takeout food to serious health conditions like appendicitis. So it’s completely normal to ask yourself: “Why does my stomach hurt?” The reality is, that there are many reasons for abdominal pain.In fact, abdominal pain accounts for 1.5% of outpatient doctor visits and 5% of emergency department visits, research shows. So learning more about it can’t hurt. Keep reading to understand different types and common causes of stomach pain so the next time a rumbly tummy arises, you can be prepared.What is stomach or abdominal pain?“Abdominal pain is pain that you feel between the chest and the groin,” explains David Greenwald, M.D. director of clinical gastroenterology and endoscopy at Mount Sinai Hospital. And while it’s commonly referred to as a stomach ache, the pangs don’t always come from that very organ. They can actually originate within the abdominal wall or any of the gastrointestinal organs including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small and large intestines, and appendix, says Indira Mahidhara, M.D., M.P.H., physician editor at MCG Health. Some stomach pain is even linked back to the chest (i.e. pneumonia or pulmonary embolism), the urinary tract, and even migraines, she adds. Stomach pain also varies in intensity from mild to severe and can manifest as many different sensations, including a knife-like sharp or dull achy pain, burning, squeezing, and spasms, added Dr. Mahidhara. Common stomach pain causesAround 40% of emergency department visits initiated by abdominal pain are reported as having an “undiagnosed cause,” explained Dr. Mahidhara. She added that 30% of those emergency room patients under 50 had an ultimate diagnosis of appendicitis. With that being said, the list of potential stomachache culprits is pretty extensive. The more common stomach pain causes, according to Dr. Greenwald and Dr. Mahidhara, are:Indigestion or acid reflux Gas or bloatingDiarrhea ConstipationMenstrual crampsIrritable bowel syndromeFood poisoningFood allergies Symptoms associated with abdominal pain vary depending on the cause, but may include fever, lack of appetite, weight gain or loss, difficulty swallowing, chest pain or burning, bloating, fullness, nausea or vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, black or bloody stools, burning with urination, blood in the urine, back pain, rash, jaundice, and bruising, said Mahidhara.How is stomach pain diagnosed? Most abdominal pain issues can be diagnosed with a careful health history review and physical exam, explained Dr. Greenwald, who adds that “the vast majority are not serious.” In some cases, additional testing may be required to fully understand the underlying problem, which may include blood analyses, stool and urine samples, and imaging of the abdomen via radiographs, ultrasounds, and CT scans.How to treat minor stomach pain at home“Treatment depends on the underlying problem, of course,” Dr. Greenwald said. But your run-of-the-mill antacids and diet modifications (think: the BRAT diet) are standard go-tos for relief, he says. Hydration, “even frequent sips of fluids,” is also crucial amid diarrhea, adds Dr. Mahidhara, and anti-inflammatory medications and a heating pad should help soothe abdominal cramps. Just be careful with medications, she advises, “because they may help or worsen a situation depending on the cause.” How to know when stomach pain is serious (and when to see a doctor) If things take a turn for the worst and symptoms like increased pain, fever, profuse vomiting, bloody diarrhea, or the development of a rigid, “board-like” abdomen surface, Dr. Greenwald said to seek urgent medical attention. Other alarming signs to keep an eye out for, according to Dr. Mahidhara, are a change in mental status, lethargy or weakness, and decreased urination. If these symptoms arise, or acute abdominal pain simply persists over a few days, seek treatment right away.

A sudden, stabbing stomach pain is one that’s hard to ignore, especially when it can be linked to almost anything—from a bad batch of takeout food to serious health conditions like appendicitis. So it’s completely normal to ask yourself: “Why does my stomach hurt?” The reality is, that there are many reasons for abdominal pain.

In fact, abdominal pain accounts for 1.5% of outpatient doctor visits and 5% of emergency department visits, research shows. So learning more about it can’t hurt. Keep reading to understand different types and common causes of stomach pain so the next time a rumbly tummy arises, you can be prepared.

What is stomach or abdominal pain?

“Abdominal pain is pain that you feel between the chest and the groin,” explains David Greenwald, M.D. director of clinical gastroenterology and endoscopy at Mount Sinai Hospital.

And while it’s commonly referred to as a stomach ache, the pangs don’t always come from that very organ. They can actually originate within the abdominal wall or any of the gastrointestinal organs including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small and large intestines, and appendix, says Indira Mahidhara, M.D., M.P.H., physician editor at MCG Health. Some stomach pain is even linked back to the chest (i.e. pneumonia or pulmonary embolism), the urinary tract, and even migraines, she adds.

Stomach pain also varies in intensity from mild to severe and can manifest as many different sensations, including a knife-like sharp or dull achy pain, burning, squeezing, and spasms, added Dr. Mahidhara.

Common stomach pain causes

Around 40% of emergency department visits initiated by abdominal pain are reported as having an “undiagnosed cause,” explained Dr. Mahidhara.

She added that 30% of those emergency room patients under 50 had an ultimate diagnosis of appendicitis. With that being said, the list of potential stomachache culprits is pretty extensive. The more common stomach pain causes, according to Dr. Greenwald and Dr. Mahidhara, are:

  • Indigestion or acid reflux
  • Gas or bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Food poisoning
  • Food allergies

Symptoms associated with abdominal pain vary depending on the cause, but may include fever, lack of appetite, weight gain or loss, difficulty swallowing, chest pain or burning, bloating, fullness, nausea or vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, black or bloody stools, burning with urination, blood in the urine, back pain, rash, jaundice, and bruising, said Mahidhara.

How is stomach pain diagnosed?

Most abdominal pain issues can be diagnosed with a careful health history review and physical exam, explained Dr. Greenwald, who adds that “the vast majority are not serious.”

In some cases, additional testing may be required to fully understand the underlying problem, which may include blood analyses, stool and urine samples, and imaging of the abdomen via radiographs, ultrasounds, and CT scans.

How to treat minor stomach pain at home

“Treatment depends on the underlying problem, of course,” Dr. Greenwald said.

But your run-of-the-mill antacids and diet modifications (think: the BRAT diet) are standard go-tos for relief, he says. Hydration, “even frequent sips of fluids,” is also crucial amid diarrhea, adds Dr. Mahidhara, and anti-inflammatory medications and a heating pad should help soothe abdominal cramps. Just be careful with medications, she advises, “because they may help or worsen a situation depending on the cause.”

How to know when stomach pain is serious (and when to see a doctor)

If things take a turn for the worst and symptoms like increased pain, fever, profuse vomiting, bloody diarrhea, or the development of a rigid, “board-like” abdomen surface, Dr. Greenwald said to seek urgent medical attention. Other alarming signs to keep an eye out for, according to Dr. Mahidhara, are a change in mental status, lethargy or weakness, and decreased urination. If these symptoms arise, or acute abdominal pain simply persists over a few days, seek treatment right away.



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