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Healthy You

Why Does My Stomach Hurt? Here’s 7 Possible Causes

Monday, July 18, 2022 1:25 PM

By Isabelle Banin

Almost everyone has experienced some level of tummy troubles before, but pinning down the source can be frustrating. Our abdomens have ten or more vital organs in them (depending on which reproductive organs you have) and diseases or other complications could harm any one of them.

To help your doctor diagnose your stomach pain, write down exactly where you are feeling pain, if there’s a time of day the pain changes and any other symptoms. Go straight to the emergency room if your pain is extreme (e.g., being unable to stand straight) or if your pain is accompanied by severe symptoms such as your skin or eyes yellowing. Signs of internal bleeding include black and tarry stools, blood in stools or urine and vomiting blood.

Whether the pain is acute or chronic, it’s important to get it evaluated by a gastroenterologist for a treatment plan.

Here, Kavita Singh, MD, Division Head, Gastroenterology at NorthShore, explains 7 potential causes of stomach pain and the symptoms to watch for:

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    Peptic Ulcer
    Peptic Ulcers are sores in your stomach or intestine. They cause strong pain in the upper-middle area of your abdomen, which for some people increases when they haven’t eaten for a while. If left untreated, peptic ulcers can cause internal bleeding, anemia, infection and other dangerous conditions.
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    Constipation
    If you have less than three bowel movements a week or find bowel movements difficult, you may have constipation. Other symptoms include sharp pain throughout your middle and feeling bloated. If your constipation lasts a few months, it can lead to other conditions such as hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding and rectal prolapse (when part of the large intestine is dislodged.)
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    Pancreatitis
    Pancreatitis can be acute, meaning the pancreas inflames rapidly, or chronic, meaning the pancreas inflames over a long period of time. Symptoms of both include upper abdominal and back pain, nausea and upper abdominal swelling. Acute pancreatitis pain is sudden and intense, while chronic pancreatitis pain may be continuous or sporadic and often increases in severity over time. Though acute pancreatitis generally heals in a week or two, chronic pancreatitis causes permanent damage and can lead to malnutrition, diabetes and other complications.
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    Appendicitis
    Appendicitis happens when your appendix, a small organ located in the lower right side of your abdomen, is inflamed. Most people first feel pain around their belly button, which then moves to the lower-right abdomen and increases after coughing or sudden movements. The lower right abdomen will often feel tender and may be painful to touch. Back pain, decreased appetite, nausea and other symptoms are also common. Since appendicitis can quickly escalate to a ruptured or burst appendix, visit the ER or an immediate care clinic as soon as you start feeling symptoms.
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    Gallstones
    Gallstones form in the gallbladder when bile crystalizes into a hardened form. It’s possible to have one large gallstone, hundreds of tiny ones or a mix of sizes. The majority of gallstones don’t cause any symptoms or problems, unless they become stuck and block the biliary system (the tubes that transport bile from the liver to the small intestine). Once blocked, the build-up of bile leads to infections, pancreatitis, and other serious conditions. Common symptoms include intense pain in the upper-center or upper-right abdomen, nausea, appetite loss and upper back pain.
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    Gastritis
    Gastritis is inflammation in the lining of your stomach, and can either be chronic (developing slowly over time) or acute (occurring quickly and intensely). Symptoms include pain in your upper abdomen, bloating, and nausea. Severe cases could cause abdominal bleeding, while mild cases may have no symptoms. Even if your symptoms are mild, it’s important to visit your doctor if they persist longer than two weeks or start to increase in severity. If left untreated, gastritis can cause stomach ulcers and increases your risk of stomach cancer and other diseases.
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    Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a general term for two conditions, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, that cause chronic inflammation in the intestines. IBDs share a number of symptoms, including weight loss and abdominal pain, and increases your risk colon cancer, blood clots and other complications. While the exact causes of IBD are unknown, environmental factors (e.g., a diet high in saturated fat) and genetics both increase your risk.

 

If you are suffering from stomach pain and would like an evaluation by a board-certified gastroenterologist, please click here to make an appointment.