What are common reasons for stomachaches and when should I be concerned?

What are common reasons for stomachaches and when should I be concerned?

Your abdomen is home to several different organs and processes that take place in order for your body to function, so it can be common to have abdominal pain, and it may or may not be serious. Abdominal pain can occur for a variety of reasons, and sometimes it is easier to classify it based on location. This chart designed from ClevelandClinic.org helps give a generalized idea of what could be the possible cause of the pain, however diagnostic testing by your provider is often necessary to determine the exact cause.

Area of PainPossible Causes
Right Upper QuadrantGallstones, cholecystitis, liver inflammation or infection, bile duct blockages (stones), kidney stone or infection, bowel obstruction
Left Upper QuadrantPancreatitis, gastritis, stomach ulcer, kidney stone or infection, reflux
Right Lower QuadrantAppendicitis
Left Lower QuadrantDiverticulitis, diverticulosis, bowel obstruction, ulcerative colitis
Lower AbdomenHernia, peritonitis, endometriosis, ovarian cyst, large or small bowel obstruction, irritable bowel obstruction

Pain can also be due to stress, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, muscle strain or trauma. If you present to your provider with abdominal pain, they will ask you a variety of questions about the nature of the pain, when it began, if anything helps relieve the pain, what makes the pain worse, associated symptoms, medications that you are taking, social history, family history, etc in order to help diagnose the pain. They may even order an ultrasound, CT or MRI to better visualize the problem.

You should seek care if the pain persists, you have a fever, persistent nausea or vomiting, have blood in your stool or vomit, or have jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes). It is important to seek emergency care if you have pain in your upper abdominal area that is radiating to your left arm, neck or chest, as it can be a heart attack, rather than an abdominal problem.

This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

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