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eMed previously Babylon Health

Stomach Pain

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019

We all have a stomach ache once in a while, and most of the time it isn’t anything serious to be concerned about. Most stomach aches, cramps or abdominal pain will go away on their own, but sometimes a sudden pain could indicate a problem which needs urgent treatment. If you have recurring stomach ache or are worried about severe abdominal pain, speak to a GP straight away.

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Symptoms of stomach ache

Many different types of pain can be classed as stomach ache. Sometimes you may find your stomach ache is relieved once you have been to the toilet, as stomach pain is a common symptom of diarrhoea and constipation. Stomach ache can be described as:

  • Dull or aching
  • Sharp
  • Burning
  • Constant or intermittent (comes and goes)
  • Comes suddenly or gradually

The most common symptoms are:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Excess wind
  • Belching
  • Acid at the back of the throat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Bleeding from the backpassage
  • Fever
  • Pain when passing urine and passing urine more frequently
  • Discharge
  • Lumps and bumps

The causes of stomach pain

There are many different things which can cause a stomach ache, so it’s important to try and find the cause. Short term stomach ache and recurring stomach pain usually has a different cause.

  • Period pain (menstrual cramps in women)
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • A stomach ulcer or gastritis
  • Bacteria or viruses which cause food poisoning or stomach bugs
  • Long term digestive problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease
  • Kidney stones or gallstones
  • Appendicitis
  • A pulled muscle
  • Pregnancy including ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages
  • Sexually transmitted infections i.e. chlamydia, gonorrhoea
  • Urine infections
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Hernias

If you have sudden sharp pains in your abdomen, and feel pain when you touch your belly, this could be caused by a serious problem and needs to be treated. Don’t delay – speak to a doctor or go to A&E if the pain is extremely severe.

Treating stomach pain

The treatments for stomach pain depend on the diagnosis. The majority of conditions which cause stomach ache will pass on their own without treatment – for example if you’re suffering from trapped wind or a stomach bug.

If you think the pain could be related to an underlying stomach condition such as IBS, or you have sharp and severe pain then you should talk to a doctor. If needed they can give you a prescription for treatment, or discuss some lifestyle changes which could help ease the pain. If you have suspected gallstones, kidney stones or appendicitis then you will need hospital treatment.

If you’re not sure whether you need to see a GP about your stomach ache, you can always use our symptom checker first.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.