The cause of stomach pain can vary widely, from relatively minor conditions to something more serious. It may or may not be accompanied by other gastric issues such as bloating, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or constipation. The following are some of the major causes of this type of pain.
Stomach pain is often caused by food poisoning, the result of eating contaminated food. Symptoms often include abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Food poisoning is often mild, does not require treatment and will go away on its own. Symptoms usually set in soon after consuming the food and may go away within as little as a few hours, although sometimes it can set in later and last for longer. Symptoms, severity, duration and whether treatment is required varies depending on the cause of the food poisoning, which could be viral, bacterial or parasitic. Avoid food poisoning by practicing proper food preparation techniques at home.
Individuals who have allergies, sensitivities or intolerances often experience stomach pain after consuming the food that is bothersome to them. Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance are two of the most common. Noticing whether you experience pain after eating certain foods is important to discover what the issue is. If upon ceasing to eat that food you no longer experience the pain, that is a strong indicator that the cause was related to food intolerance. Testing by a medical professional is the only way to know for sure.
The condition commonly known as stomach flu is not actually the flu at all in that it is not caused by the flu virus, although it is often a viral infection. This condition is usually accompanied by vomiting, fever, nausea, and diarrhea. It often goes away within 48 hours. It is rarely serious but a doctor should be consulted if you begin showing signs of dehydration.
Stomach ulcers can be another cause of stomach pain. A stomach ulcer occurs when the protective mucus membrane along the stomach walls is weakened, allowing stomach acid to burn through the lining. Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin, is a major cause, as are certain bacterial infections and severe stress. Ulcers can be serious enough to require surgery and should be examined by a physician.
Rarely, but seriously, stomach pain can be caused by gastric cancer, which is characterized by cancerous tumors growing in the cells of the stomach lining. Like with other cancers, additional symptoms can include unexpected weight loss, fatigue, feeling full quickly and dark or bloody stool. Gastric cancer often does not produce any symptoms until the disease has progressed, which often makes prognosis poor when discovered.
See a doctor when experiencing stomach pain that is sudden and severe or lasts for a prolonged period of time. A trip to the emergency room is warranted for patients who are vomiting blood or are having trouble breathing. However, most causes of stomach pain are not serious and will go away on their own.