Stomach ache and abdominal pain

A stomach ache, including stomach cramps or abdominal pain, doesn’t usually last long and isn’t usually caused by anything serious.

Some common causes of a stomach ache include:

  • trapped wind (flatulence)
  • pain or discomfort after eating (indigestion)
  • being unable to poo (constipation)
  • Speak to your pharmacist for advice about medications to help ease symptoms of these conditions.
  • If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, it will usually clear up by itself within a week.

When to get medical advice

See your GP or call NHS 111 if you’re worried or need advice about your symptoms. For example, if:

  • the pain gets much worse in a short space of time
  • the pain won’t go away or keeps returning
  • you have unexpected weight loss
  • you have unusual vaginal discharge
  • you bleed from your bottom
  • you have a persistent change in toilet habits

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest hospital accident and emergency (A&E) if you:

  • have sudden, severe stomach pain
  • feel pain when you touch your stomach
  • are vomiting blood
  • have bloody or black, sticky stools
  • aren’t able to urinate
  • have collapsed or can’t breathe
  • you’re diabetic and vomiting
  • If you feel pain in the area around your ribs, read about chest pain for information and advice.

Causes of sudden, severe abdominal pain

Some of the possible causes of sudden, severe abdominal pain include:

  • appendicitis – swelling of the appendix that causes agonising pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen
  • a bleeding or perforated stomach ulcer – a bleeding, open sore in the lining of your stomach
  • acute cholecystitis – an inflamed gallbladder, often caused by gallstones
  • kidney stones – small stones may be passed out in your wee, but larger stones may block the kidney tubes
  • diverticulitis – a type of inflammation in the bowel
  • a pulled muscle in your abdomen, or an injury
  • Causes of long-term or recurring abdominal pain

Some of the possible causes of long-term or recurring abdominal pain include:

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – symptoms of this common condition include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation; the pain is often relieved when you go to the toilet
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • a urinary tract infection that keeps returning – you’ll usually experience a burning sensation when you wee
  • constipation
  • period pain
  • other stomach-related problems – such as a stomach ulcer, heartburn, and acid reflux, or inflammation of the stomach lining(gastritis)

Possible causes in children include:

  • constipation
  • a urinary tract infection that keeps returning
  • heartburn and acid reflux
  • recurrent episodes of abdominal pain with no identifiable cause (abdominal migraines)

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