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Stomach Ache Causes

Stomach Ache Causes

Stomach ache is an important symptom of many ailments, right from indigestion and intestinal infection, to some major health problems related to the vital organs of the body. In order to treat stomach ache, it is essential to first identify its cause appropriately.
Dhanya Joy
Last Updated: Mar 1, 2018
Stomach ache or abdominal pain is a common condition, that can affect people of all age groups. However, the causes of stomach ache are somewhat varied. It is characterized by a strong, stabbing and sharp pain, in the abdominal area. Since stomach pain can be a symptom of a wide range of disorders and diseases, making a definite diagnosis of its cause can be very difficult at times.

While some of the causes may not be very grave, those that cause severe aching should be taken seriously. Severe stomach ache needs immediate medical attention, to rule out the possibility of serious diseases and disorders. Some of the common causes of stomach ache are explained below.

Stomach Ache Causes

Acidity and indigestion induced stomach pain, is very common among adults. This may be accompanied by other symptoms, like bloating, belching and gas, a burning sensation in the stomach, and nausea and vomiting. Indigestion can be a sign of some underlying diseases, such as ulcers and gallbladder disease.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD) is the condition, where stomach content and acids flow back to the esophagus. The condition typically produces a burning sensation in the chest and throat, and a sour taste in the mouth. Sometimes, it can also cause upper abdominal pain and discomfort. GERD is also known by the name of heartburn.

Stomach flu or gastroenteritis is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain in both adults and children. Gastroenteritis can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections. Along with abdominal pain and cramps, this condition can cause watery diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and a low-grade fever.

This condition is characterized by abdominal pain, that begins in the navel region and then spread to the right side of the lower abdomen. Appendicitis refers to inflammation of the appendix, which is located near the junction of the small and large intestine, on the lower right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis can be caused by a blockage, due to the accumulation of food waste and stool in the appendix. This in turn, can pave the way for bacterial infection. Sometimes, appendicitis may occur after an episode of gastrointestinal viral infection as well.

Food related Causes
Food allergy, food intolerance, and food poisoning, are the most common food related causes of stomach ache. Food allergy is caused by an abnormal reaction of the immune system to a particular food, which can produce symptoms, like cramping pain the abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, hives and itching, and swelling in the mouth.

Food intolerance is caused by the inadequate production of a particular type of chemical or enzyme, that is required to digest that specific food. Along with abdominal pain, it can cause bloating or gas, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. On the other hand, food poisoning is caused by the consumption of foods contaminated by infectious agents, such as virus, bacteria or parasites, and the toxins produced by them. Abdominal pain and cramps, fever, diarrhea, and nausea and vomiting, can be some of the common symptoms of food poisoning.

Gastrointestinal Causes
Factors that can cause inflammation and obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, can result in abdominal pain. The most common conditions, that can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract are gastritis, esophagitis, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. On the other hand, conditions that can cause obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract are hernia, tumors, severe constipation, hemorrhoids, and volvulus. Apart from these, peptic ulcer and celiac disease are some other gastrointestinal causes of abdominal pain.

Liver and Gallbladder Problems
Diseases and disorders related to liver and gallbladder, can also cause stomach ache. Hepatitis and liver abscess are two common conditions related to the liver, that can be associated with abdominal pain. Cholecystitis and cholangitis are the conditions, that can cause inflammation of the gallbladder and the bile ducts, while formation of gallstones and tumors can block the flow of bile at times. In both the cases, stomach pain can be experienced.

Renal and Urological Causes
Formation of kidney stones, urolithiasis, infection of the urinary tract (especially bladder infection), pyelonephritis, cystitis, urinary retention, and development of tumors, are the conditions related to the kidney and urinary system, that can cause abdominal pain.

Gynecological Causes
Many women can experience lower abdominal pain, before or during menstruation. Other gynecological conditions that can cause stomachache are, dysmenorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, tumors and fibroids, salpingitis, and ovarian cysts.

Colon cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the ovary, uterus, bladder, and kidney, and pancreatic cancer, can cause severe abdominal pain. It may be difficult to diagnose this cause and once it has been diagnosed, proper medical care is required.

Other Possible Causes
In addition to the above mentioned causes, several other conditions can cause abdominal pain, such as irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, abdominal aortic aneurysm, diabetic ketoacidosis, lead poisoning, mesenteric lymphadenitis, peritonitis, pericarditis, pleurisy, pneumonia, pneumothorax, pyloric stenosis (in infants), seminal vesiculitis (in men), splenomegaly, splenic abscess and spleen infection, torn colon, etc. Abdominal pain may be a symptom of angina and heart attacks, particularly in women. Even emotional stress and anxiety can cause stomach ache in some individuals.

Causes of Abdominal Pain in Children 
The most common causes of abdominal pain in children are, gastroenteritis or stomach flu and food allergy, especially milk allergy. Food intolerance, especially lactose intolerance is another common condition, that can cause abdominal pain in children. Sometimes, infection of the upper respiratory tract can also cause stomach ache in young children.

When a child gets infected by intestinal parasites or worms, it may result in a recurrent stomach ache, along with loss of appetite and vomiting. An intestinal worm infection is caused due to the consumption of unhygienic and contaminated food and water, and skin contact with soil containing larva. Constipation, indigestion, and gas, can also cause stomach ache in children.

Children younger than 3 years, may experience stomach ache due to intussusception, where a part of the intestine slides to the adjacent part. This condition can produce a few other symptoms, like presence of blood and mucus in stool, a lump in the abdomen, and vomiting. Infants suffering from this condition, can start crying suddenly and pull their knees to the chest, while crying. This condition requires immediate medical attention. Intussusception rarely affects adults. 

Physicians usually carry out physical examination, along with a complete study of the nature and location of abdominal pain, to find out its causes. The way the pain begins, its duration and pattern, and the factors that relieve or worsen the pain, can provide important insights. If required, laboratory testing, such as radiological and endoscopic testing are carried out, in order to find out the exact causes. The treatment for abdominal pain depends on the underlying causes.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice.
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