Often, pain or discomfort anywhere in the abdomen is described as a stomach ache, although the stomach may not actually be the source of the pain. Stomach aches are often caused by conditions of the digestive tract, but can also be caused by conditions of the body wall, blood vessels, urinary tract, reproductive organs, or organs of the chest.
Digestive Problems Spotlight
Localized pain may be due to the organs near the site of the pain, such as the gallbladder or stomach in the upper abdomen or the appendix in the lower abdomen. Generalized stomach aches may be associated with diet, inflammation, or infection. Menstrual cramps, endometriosis (in which tissues resembling the uterine lining grow in other areas of the body), and pelvic inflammatory disease are known to cause generalized stomach aches or lower abdominal pain in women.
Pain originating in the stomach can be due to heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernias (weakening in the diaphragm that allows the stomach to protrude into the chest), gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), or peptic ulcers. Symptoms may be brought on by certain foods and may worsen when lying flat. Pain from gas, abdominal cramps, or bloating may arise from the intestines, and can also be related to food intake or may be related to intestinal infection or inflammation.
Pain associated with shingles, a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, may be attributed to stomach problems until the characteristic blistering rash becomes apparent. Abdominal trauma, poisoning, heart attack, lung problems, conditions of the reproductive organs, and stones or infections of the urinary tract can also cause symptoms that are perceived as stomach problems.
Stomach aches that are severe or that do not improve within a day or two can be symptoms of serious medical conditions. Seek immediate medical care (call 911 or our Gridley’s Urgent Care Office) for severe pain that comes on suddenly, an inability to have bowel movements, bloody stool, vomiting blood, abdominal rigidity, breathing difficulties, or pain in the neck, chest, shoulders, or between the shoulders. You should also seek immediate care if you have a severe stomach ache and have cancer or might be pregnant.
Digestive tract symptoms that may occur along with a stomach ache:
Stomach aches may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive system including:
Abdominal pain or cramping
Abdominal swelling, distension or bloating
Bloody stool (blood may be red, black, or tarry in texture)
Changes in bowel movements
Nausea with or without vomiting
The urgent need to pass stool
Other symptoms that may occur along with a stomach ache:
Stomach aches may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:
Enlarged liver and glands such as the spleen and lymph nodes
Pain during sexual intercourse
Pain or burning with urination
Pain, numbness or tingling
Palpable mass in the abdomen or pelvic area
Unexplained weight loss
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition:
In some cases, a stomach ache may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911 or our office) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:
Bleeding while pregnant
Change in level of consciousness or alertness such as passing out or unresponsiveness
Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, or palpitations
High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
Inability to have bowel movements, especially if accompanied by vomiting
Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
Respiratory or breathing problems such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, or choking
The rigidity of the abdomen
Severe abdominal pain or sharp abdominal pain that comes on suddenly
Trauma to the abdomen, pelvis or testicles
Vomiting blood, rectal bleeding, or bloody stool
If your stomach ache is persistent or causes you concern, call our office.