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What Is Causing My Stomach Pain?

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Posted by Benjamin Krevsky, MD, MPH

Abdominal aches and pains affect all of us from time to time. In fact, stomach pain is a common symptom for many of my patients. It’s often what prompts them to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist such as myself.

I explain to patients that “stomach pain” may actually be caused by many conditions. That’s because the abdomen contains a variety of vital organs, such as the stomach, the large and small intestines, the liver, the pancreas and the spleen. When a problem occurs in one of these organs, abdominal pain can be a symptom.

Sometimes, we don’t have to look any further than a patient’s diet. They may have a food allergy, for instance. Or perhaps they ate food that caused gastrointestinal distress.

But in my experience, abdominal pain is often much more complicated than what someone ate. The table below describes:

  • 4 common conditions that may cause abdominal pain
  • What other symptoms you may have besides abdominal pain
  • Who is at risk for these conditions
  • Some of the treatments we provide at the Temple Digestive Disease Center

It’s always important to see a gastroenterologist if you suspect you may have one of these conditions — or if you have any type of abdominal pain that is constant or is getting worse.

Conditions that cause abdominal pain

CONDITION SYMPTOMS RISK FACTORS TREATMENT
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Stomach cramping
  • Hispanics and Caucasians
  • People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • People who smoke
  • Medications that relieve symptoms and fight inflammation
  • Medications that calm the immune system
  • Changes to eating habits
  • Surgery if medication doesn’t help
Bowel Obstruction
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Severe pain
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • IBD, diabetes or cancer (especially abdominal cancer)
  • Previous abdominal surgery
  • Having radiation therapy
  • Medications, such as stool softeners
  • Monitor condition
  • Enemas
  • Surgery for total obstructions
Gastritis
  • Feeling too full or full too quickly after a meal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Older adults
  • African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, and Alaska Natives
  • People who use aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Diet or medication changes
  • Medications like omeprazole, or supplements such as iron, folic acid or vitamin B12
Gastroparesis
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full too quickly
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in upper abdomen
  • Diabetes
  • Previous surgery on the esophagus, stomach or small intestine
  • Having radiation therapy near the chest or stomach area
  • People who use certain medicines, like opioid painkillers
  • Sometimes addressing the cause, like diabetes, can stop gastroparesis
  • Certain medications can ease symptoms
  • Changes to eating habits

Get help for a digestive disease

You don’t have to live with, or accept, stomach pain or other symptoms caused by a digestive disease. At the Temple Digestive Disease Center, our gastroenterologists can diagnose and treat the cause, location and severity of your discomfort.

Request an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Benjamin Krevsky, MD, MPH

Dr. Krevsky is a gastroenterologist with clinical interests in colonoscopy, GERD, constipation and capsule endoscopy. A Professor of Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Dr. Krevsky is an active clinician and educator, having published over 200 papers, audiotapes and books. He is also a member of several organizations, including American College of Gastroenterology, American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and American Gastroenterological Association.

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