A stomach ache normally will refer to cramps or a dull ache in the abdomen, which is normally short lived possible cause by a minor upset, virus or stomach bug.
However, please note that for severe abdominal pain this is a serious cause for concern, especially if it starts suddenly and unexpectedly, then it must be regarded as a medical emergency, especially if the pain is concentrated in a particular area. Telephone your General Practitioner GP immediately and/or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency hospital or minor injuries unit.
The most common reasons may be:
- sudden stomach cramps
- sudden, severe abdominal pain in a particular area of your belly
- abdominal pain that has lasted a long time or that keeps returning
If you feel pain in the area around your ribs,then it may be chest pain and not related to the stomach unless it is indigestion. However severe indigestion and heart attacks or strokes can be similar and so must be eliminated which can be done at hospital or unit to complete specific checks.
Stomach cramps are often due to trapped wind and bloating which is an extremely embarrassing common problem which is easily dealt with take either buscopan or mebeverine, which can be bought over the counter from a pharmacist quickly treating the problem.
Stomach cramps with diarrhoea which have started quickly; the cause is likely to be gastroenteritis which is a common tummy bug, such as the Norovirus, caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel, normally goes without treatment after a few days however young children, babies and the elderly.
Severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea which make you feel very ill; causing chills or a fever may be caused from a serious infection, such as food poisoning which normally gets better on its own without treatment.
If your stomach cramps and diarrhoea continue for more than a few days, you may have a long-term condition, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
A sudden, agonising pain in a specific area of your belly, call your GP immediately or go to your nearest A&E department. It may be a sign of a serious illness that will rapidly get worse without treatment.
Frequent causes of sudden, severe abdominal pain:
- Appendicitis – the swelling of the appendix (a finger-like pouch connected to the large intestine), which causes agonising pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen and means your appendix will need to be removed
- Perforated peptic ulcer – an open sore developing on the inside lining of your stomach or duodenum (upper small intestine) that has broken through the lining
- Gallstones – small stones that form in the gallbladder, which may mean the gallbladder will need to be remove
- Kidney stones – small stones may be passed out in your urine, but larger stones may block the kidney tubes and you will need to go to hospital to have these broken up
- Diverticulitis – inflammation in the small pouches that are part of the bowel.
A sudden and severe pain in your abdomen can also be caused by an infection of the stomach and bowel (gastroenteritis). It may also be caused by a pulled muscle in your abdomen or an injury ~ I have had this from walking quickly especially when carrying heavy bags and lifting something heavy like furniture for too long!
My daughter had appendicitis our GP suspected it and so referred us to hospital immediately.
Adults who have persistent or repeated episodes of abdominal pain should see their GP, with no need to panic the cause is often not serious and can be managed such as:
Irritable bowel syndrome – a common condition where the muscle in the bowel wall tends to go into spasm (tightens); pain is often relieved when you go to the toilet. Medicine can be administered and peppermint tea relieves symptoms as well as follow a diet which is low in fibre, nuts, seeds, processed foods and anything else you find causes wind and spasms.
Crohn’s disease – a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Urinary Tract Infections – a recurring infection which keeps returning, usually feel a burning sensation when you urinate
Peptic Ulcer – an open sore that develops on the inside lining of your stomach or duodenum the upper small intestine
Heartburn and acid reflux – stomach acid leaks from the stomach and up into the oesophagus, the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach
Period pain – painful muscle cramps in women that are linked to the menstrual cycle
Common causes of stomach cramps in children include:
- Periodic syndrome – children have recurring episodes of tummy pain which is similar to irritable bowel syndrome in adults
- Urinary Tract Infection which keeps recurring
- Heartburn and acid reflux