What causes stomach and abdominal pain?
Stomach ache or abdominal pain is any pain (sharp pain, nausea, dull pain, aches, or cramping) that is felt in the abdomen – the area between your chest and your pelvis. Many of your major organs are located in the abdomen, so the cause of abdominal pain can range from anything as simple as gas and bloating to emergency situations, such as appendicitis or a heart attack. Even anxiety can often cause people to experience nausea or stomach aches. Some minor causes of stomach pains can be:
- Food intolerance that could cause gas, bloating, or heartburn
- Food poisoning or a stomach virus (these could become severe if you are unable to control vomiting or diarrhea and become dehydrated)
- Gall stones
- Bowel blockage
- Stomach ulcers
Sometimes stomach pains are caused not by the gastrointestinal tract but by surrounding organs, such as:
- Pneumonia – an infection of the lungs that can cause coughing, shortness of breath, and pain in the chest cavity and stomach area
- Heart attack
- Menstrual cramps
- Cancer in any of the organs of the abdomen
- Pain stemming from other organs (spleen, liver, pancreas, ovaries, kidneys)
What abdominal pain symptoms should I be concerned about?
With so many causes for stomach aches and abdominal pains, it can be hard to know when to be concerned, especially in children who are not always able to accurately describe what hurts. Many stomach aches will resolve themselves, but here are some symptoms that indicate additional medical help is necessary:
- Pain so severe that it prevents normal sitting or walking
- Difficulty breathing
- Continued nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Swelling in any part of the abdomen
- Severe tenderness in the abdomen
- Persistent high fever that cannot be controlled with a fever reducer
- Yellow tint to eyes or skin
- Vomiting of blood or blood in stool
- Accompanying chest, neck, or shoulder pain
Any of these symptoms require immediate emergency medical attention.
Could my abdominal pain be appendicitis?
Appendicitis is always considered an emergency, as untreated appendicitis could cause a ruptured appendix that would likely lead to further infection in the abdominal cavity. Appendicitis is most common in children, however, it is not unheard of in adults. It is characterized by a dull pain that starts near the navel and becomes a sharp pain as it moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. Read more about the symptoms and risks of appendicitis.
Abdominal Pain in Children
Abdominal pain in children is fairly common, around 1 out of 3 children is seen by a physician for some type of abdominal pain by the time they are 15. However, it is only a serious problem in a small number of children.
Most abdominal pain complaints in children can be attributed to a change in diet or bowel habits. Usually, these pains can be treated at home. Generally, parents shouldn’t worry about abdominal pain in their kids unless it lasts longer than 3 hours.
Abdominal pain in children can be related to other causes such as an injury to the area, an illness, food poisoning, upset stomach, ear infections, urinary tract infections, and even strep throat. It can also be caused by more serious issues such as appendicitis, lead poisoning, malrotation, or intussusception.
Symptoms of abdominal pain are the same in children as with adults. You should seek medical care if your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms or signs listed above.
Before retirement used ER services on 3 occasions in last 9 years, the level of care I received was superb.– Maureen