What causes stomach pain, and when should you seek medical advice?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 24/02/2020
Edited by: Alex Rolandi

Most of the time stomach pain, such as stomach ache and cramps, is nothing to fret about and usually clears up in a short period of time. However, on some occasions, it can be a sign of a more serious condition that requires medical attention. We take a look at some of the main causes of abdominal pain, and when it’s time to see a doctor.

The most common causes of stomach pain

In most cases of abdominal pain, it should be easy for a doctor to diagnose and treat the problem. Stomach pain can manifest in a number of ways, including mild aching, a sharp stabbing pain, or cramps. These may be caused by a number of factors such as flatulence (trapped wind), indigestion, or constipation. Often there is no need to see a doctor as a pharmacist will be able to advise on which medications are best to ease the symptoms of these particular conditions.

Stomach pain is often also caused by diarrhoea or vomiting, but this tends to clear up within a week or so.

Other common causes food poisoning and food allergies.


When to see a doctor about stomach pain

Sometimes it may be necessary to see a doctor about your stomach pain. Contact your GP or a specialist if:


  • The pain keeps returning or does not go away
  • The pain suddenly worsens
  • Your toilet habits keep changing
  • You bleed from your rectum
  • You unexpectedly lose weight


It’s time to call an ambulance when:


  • You experience a sudden onset of severe abdominal pain
  • You vomit blood
  • You cannot urinate
  • You have diabetes and are vomiting
  • You have collapsed or are having trouble breathing
  • You feel pain when you touch your abdomen
  • Your stool is bloody or black and sticky


Other causes of stomach pain

Other, more serious conditions that cause sudden and severe abdominal pain are:


  • Appendicitis
  • Kidney stones
  • A perforated or bleeding tomach ulcer
  • Pulled abdominal muscle
  • Diverticulitis (inflammation in the bowel)
  • Acute cholecystitis (often caused by gallstones)

Long-term or recurrent abdominal pain may be caused by:


  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation
  • Period pain
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Gastritis

If you have any doubts about abdominal pain that won’t go away, get in touch with a specialist


By Topdoctors

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