Stomach Pain and Potential Causes

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Stomach pain is unsettling and can occur for various reasons such as overeating, indigestion and menstrual cramping, to name a few. Sometimes though, abdominal pain can be a sign of a more serious issue.

Our team is here to help you learn more about the different types of stomach pain and offers medical expertise to get you back to health again.

Convenient, Same-day Care for Abdominal Pain

We understand that abdominal pain and distress is worrisome and uncomfortable to say the least. That’s why we offer several options for immediate and urgent care to reduce stress and make it easier to get the care you need.

Norton Now includes same-day care offerings so you can get the care you need, when you need it and where you need it. Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices, our internal medicine and family medicine physician offices, are located across the Louisville and Southern Indiana area. Save your spot inline at a Norton Immediate Care Center or visit a Norton Prompt Care clinic for treatment of minor injuries or illnesses.

Use Norton eCare video visits or just answer a few questions online from anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana for care without coming into the office.

Related: Stomach flu and treatment options

Common Causes of Stomach Pain

If your stomach issues fall in one of these categories, you may not need to be seen immediately. You can schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, visit a Norton Immediate Care Center or Norton Prompt Care clinic or get care remotely through Norton eCare. Our providers will assess your stomach ache or other symptoms, perform initial evaluations and refer you to a specialist, if needed. 

If you have severe abdominal pain or are concerned that your symptoms are serious, seek medical care immediately.

  • Indigestion: Overeating or consuming spicy foods can lead to indigestion and a burning sensation in the upper abdomen.
  • Gas and bloating: Often resulting in stomach pain, this happens from swallowing air and consuming certain foods that cause irritation.
  • Gastroenteritis: This condition describes infections that are viral or bacterial and can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea.
  • Acid reflux: Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and creates a burning sensation in the chest and upper abdomen.
  • Constipation: Having fewer than three bowel movements a week due to dietary choices, stress, anxiety, celiac disease and more can lead to a stomach ache.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: This is a common digestive disorder that causes belly pain, bloating and changes in bowel movements. Causes of irritable bowel syndrome vary widely. If you need specialist care, Norton Healthcare gastroenterologists can find the best treatment for you. Dietary changes could include adding fiber, avoiding gluten or trying a diet reducing the number of short-chain carbohydrates that are fermentable and can cause intestinal discomfort (sometimes known as the “FODMAPS” diet). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Menstrual cramps: Many people experience painful cramps during their menstrual periods. Menstrual cramps can feel like an ache — they can be sharp and stabbing or a consistent, dull pain. You may have an upset stomach, but period cramps will be lower in your abdomen than a stomachache.
  • Stress and anxiety: High levels of stress can lead to muscle tension and stomach discomfort. 
  • Stomach flu: This condition, typically caused by the norovirus, which is unrelated to influenza and targets the digestive tract. Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea and is very contagious. Hand-washing and cleaning surfaces help prevent spread of the virus.
  • Stomach ulcer: Also called a peptic ulcer, this is a sore in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (first part of the intestine) can cause a gnawing or burning pain between the breastbone and belly button. Most ulcers are caused by H. pylori bacteria and can be cured by the right antibiotics in a couple weeks. Medicines that reduce the acid in your stomach can make you feel better, but don’t address the cause of the ulcer.
  • Food intolerances: Some people experience a reaction to certain foods, such as gluten and lactose that can cause abdominal pain.
  • Muscle strain: Exercise or physical work can cause pressure and strain on your stomach muscles, resulting in discomfort and pain.

Signs of stomach pain requiring medical attention

If you’re experiencing any of the following conditions, seek medical care immediately.

  • Sudden and severe abdominal pain that is persistent and sharp and usually localized to one area can be the sign of a medical emergency such as appendicitis, gallstones or bowel obstruction.
  • Vomiting blood along with stomach pain can be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Painful, bloody stools can be a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding and should be addressed immediately.
  • Severe pain with a fever can indicate an infection or inflammatory condition that requires medical assessment and treatment.
  • Pain after injury or trauma can be sign of internal damage such as organ failure or internal bleeding.
  • Pain during pregnancy can be sign of complications such as ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Chronic or persistent pains in your stomach that last for extended periods of time and are not improving or are getting worse should be evaluated to rule out underlying conditions such as ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and stomach cancers such as adenocarcinoma and lymphoma.
  • Pain with preexisting conditions, such as a history of gastrointestinal diseases, hernias or abdominal aortic aneurysms, can be a sign of an issue affecting those conditions and should be addressed immediately. 

Norton Now: Care When You Need It

  • Get medical care when and where it works for you.
    • Norton Community Medical Associates primary care is your medical home. More than 35 locations across the Louisville area and Southern Indiana means there’s an office close to home, work or school. Your primary care physician knows you and your health and performs annual checkups to stay ahead of any emerging conditions. Our doctors and nurse practitioners connect you to the full Norton Healthcare system, giving you and your family easy access to the area’s leading specialty physicians.
    • More than 15 Norton Immediate Care Centers offer treatment for minor illnesses and injuries. Reserve your spot in line and we’ll text you when it’s time to check in. All Norton Immediate Care Centers are equipped with X-ray machines.
    • Norton Prompt Care clinics have same-day appointments available when you need care for yourself or your family. All locations offer extended weekday and weekend hours. Many are located within Walgreens stores.
    • Norton eCare allows you to visit with a provider via secure video or by simply answering questions online about your symptoms.
    • Emergency care is available for a very serious illness or injury that puts your life in danger. Get treatment 24/7 at nine locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana, including three locations for kids.
  • Medicaid, Medicare and most major commercial insurance plans are accepted.
  • Get test results, renew prescriptions, communicate with your health care provider, get notified if an earlier appointment becomes available and more with your free Norton MyChart account.

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