In many cases, stomach and abdominal pain are not signs of serious illness. The sensation is often short-lived, indicating indigestion or another minor ailment that will resolve without medical attention. Some serious medical conditions can cause abdominal pain, however. Pain that does not ease with over-the-counter remedies or that lasts for more than a few days without a known cause should be investigated by a doctor.
Gastroenteritis is the medical term for a stomach bug caused by a viral infection. This is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain, and many people with the infection also experience diarrhea. The pain can be severe enough to be debilitating, but it usually passes within 24 hours, assuming the infected individual has a healthy immune system. In extreme cases, gastroenteritis can last as long as two weeks.
Constipation is another common source of abdominal pain, and it is usually caused by diet or lifestyle, though conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS can also cause it. Medication and the consumption of fiber-rich foods can often ease constipation. If it lasts more than a couple of days, one should speak to a doctor.
Indigestion is another frequent cause of abdominal pain. It can also cause chest pain if it develops as acid reflux. Dyspepsia, the medical term for indigestion, can also lead to bloating, gas, and nausea. Chewing and drinking more slowly and avoiding food consumption for a few hours before bed can often alleviate this issue unless a more serious health condition is to blame.
Though appendicitis can be life-threatening if it advances to the point where the appendix bursts, it is considered quite treatable when caught early. Sudden, sharp, and persistent abdominal pain on the right side of the body could be an indication of appendicitis, and anyone who feels this sensation should have it investigated as a precaution.
Most people experience the pain that stems from food poisoning at least once in their lives. Food-borne bacteria can infiltrate the body when food is not cooked to a proper temperate, prepared on a contaminated surface, or contaminated before consumption (as in the case of an egg whose existing crack goes unnoticed). In most cases, the abdominal pain from food poisoning should not last more than a day or two, but severe cases can last for a week to ten days.
GERD is one of several names for acid reflux and acid regurgitation or heartburn. Normally, acids in the stomach process food. If the esophageal sphincter, the flap that prevents food and stomach acid from going back up the esophagus, is weakened, the stomach acid can back up into the esophagus or even as far as the throat, causing pain that goes from the abdomen, all the way up.
Abdominal pain can be the result of gallstones. Some people are more prone to these accumulations of calcium salts and other substances, due to genetics or other factors. The stones block the passage of bile through the gallbladder, and the pressure this causes may produce severe abdominal pain. In the most extreme cases, a surgeon must remove the gallstones.
This is a less common cause of abdominal pains, but awareness of gluten intolerance is becoming more widespread. A small number of people can’t properly process the gluten found in foods such as wheat, barley, and rye. Those who do not know they have an intolerance or the more serious allergy, celiac disease, may be alerted to the fact by severe stomach or abdominal pain after consuming gluten. Most people with gluten intolerances avoid products containing this protein.
Lactose is sugar that occurs naturally in milk products. Most people are able to process this sugar, but some cannot digest it properly. People with lactose intolerance can develop indigestion and other symptoms that can involve abdominal pain when their bodies try and fail to digest this sugar.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a disease of the large intestine that causes abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating. In recent years, other seemingly less-related symptoms can also develop in people with IBS, including fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. A bowel movement or passing excess gas may partially relieve abdominal pain caused by this condition, but more long-term, medical solutions are often required.
Injury-Related Abdominal Pain
Injuries in the abdominal area can cause localized pain. One of the most common incidences is muscle strains caused by injury during physical activity. In most cases, abdominal muscle strains should not last for more than a few hours, but if the pain does not subside on its own with rest or home remedies such as applying heat and ice, an individual should see a doctor to ensure the injury is not more significant. Some severe abdominal muscle strains can last for a few weeks.