The term stomach cramps is nonspecific and is used to refer to a number of different symptoms or sensations rather than true muscle cramps of the stomach. People often refer to a "stomachache" or "abdominal cramps" to refer to pain that is perceived anywhere in the abdominal area. As such, the list of potential causes is extremely varied. Organs of the abdomen include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, and problems or diseases of all of these organs may be the source of pain. Some typical causes of abdominal pain and associated symptoms that arise from the gastrointestinal tract include
- food poisoning,
- lactose intolerance, and
- inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis).
Occasionally, pain may be felt in the abdomen even though it is arising from organs that are close to, but not within, the abdominal cavity, such as conditions involving the lower lungs, kidneys, uterus, or ovaries. These causes can include pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, and pregnancy-related complications.
Related Symptoms & Signs
Other causes of stomach cramps
- Bacterial Infections
- Bowel Obstruction
- Ischemic Colitis
- Pregnancy-Associated Problems
- Viral Infections
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
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Causes of Stomach Cramps
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a ballooning or widening of the main artery (the aorta) as it courses down through the abdomen. Most abdominal aortic aneurysms produce no symptoms. Treatment may include observation or surgical repair.
Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a rapid pulse. Treatment of pancreatitis often requires hospitalization.
Appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix, has many different causes. Pain in the abdomen is the most common symptom, but you also may experience nausea, vomiting, constipation, and fever. Learn about treatment and surgery.
Colitis refers to inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. Symptoms of the inflammation of the colon lining include diarrhea, pain, and blood in the stool. There are several causes of colitis, including infection, ischemia of the colon, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, infectious colitis like C. difficile, or microscopic colitis). Treatment depends on the cause of the colitis.
Constipation is defined medically as fewer than three stools per week and severe constipation as less than one stool per week. Constipation usually is caused by the slow movement of stool through the colon. There are many causes of constipation including medications, poor bowel habits, low-fiber diets, laxative abuse, and hormonal disorders, and diseases primarily of other parts of the body that also affect the colon.
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, primarily involving the small and large intestine, but which can affect other parts of the digestive system as well. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss are common symptoms and signs.
Most people with diverticulosis have few if any symptoms at all. When people do experience signs and symptoms of diverticulosis (diverticular disease) they may include abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticula in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues that surround the colon. Treatment methods for diverticulitis include prescription medications, and in some cases, diverticulitis surgery.
E. coli (0157:H7) Infection
There are many types of E. coli (Escherichia coli). E. coli can cause urinary tract and bladder infections, or lead to sepsis. E coli O157:H7 (EHEC) causes bloody diarrhea and colitis. Complications of E. coli infection include hemorrhagic diarrhea, hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. E coli O157:H7 commonly is due to eating raw or undercooked hamburger or raw milk or dairy products.
Endometriosis implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, the outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines, and on the surface lining of the pelvic cavity. They also can be found in the vagina, cervix, and bladder.
The most common food allergies are to eggs, nuts, milk, peanuts, fish, shellfish, strawberries and tomatoes. Symptoms and signs of a food allergy reaction include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, itching, hives, eczema, asthma, lightheadedness, and anaphylaxis. Allergy skin tests, RAST, and ELISA tests may be used to diagnose a food allergy. Though dietary avoidance may be sufficient treatment for mild allergies, the use of an Epipen may be necessary for severe food allergies.
Food poisoning is common but can also be life-threatening. Food poisoning symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Read about different types of food poisoning, treatment, and tips for prevention.
Gallbladder pain (often misspelled "gall bladder") is generally produced by of five problems, biliary colic, cholecystitis, gallstones, and pancreatitis. Causes of gallbladder pain include intermittent blockage of ducts by gallstones or gallstone inflammation and/or sludge that also may involve irritation or infection of surrounding tissues, or when a bile duct is completely blocked. Treatment of gallbladder depends on the cause, which may include surgery.
Gallstones are stones that form when substances in the bile harden. Gallstones (formed in the gallbladder) can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. There can be just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or any combination. The majority of gallstones do not cause signs or symptoms; however, when they do occur the primary sign is biliary colic. Symptoms of biliary colic are constant pain for 15 minutes to 4-5 hours, and it may vary in intensity; nausea, severe pain that does not worsen with movement; and pain beneath the sternum. Treatment of gallstones depends upon the patient and the clinical situation.
GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux, can cause symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, and nausea. Learn about causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Heartburn is a burning sensation experienced from acid reflux (GERD). Symptoms of heartburn include chest pain, burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing, the feeling of food sticking in the throat, and a burning feeling in the chest. Causes of heartburn include dietary habits, lifestyle habits, and medical causes. Treatments for heartburn include lifestyle changes, OTC medication,prescription medication, and surgery.
Hepatitis B (HBV, Hep B)
The hepatitis B virus (HBV, hep B) is a unique, coated DNA virus belonging to the Hepadnaviridae family of viruses. The course of the virus is determined primarily by the age at which the infection is acquired and the interaction between the virus and the body's immune system. Successful treatment is associated with a reduction in liver injury and fibrosis (scarring), a decreased likelihood of developing cirrhosis and its complications, including liver cancer, and a prolonged survival.
Hepatitis C (HCV, Hep C)
Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver due to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is usually spread by blood transfusion, hemodialysis, and needle sticks, especially with intravenous drug abuse. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and fever. Chronic hepatitis C may be cured in most individuals with drugs that target specific genomes of hepatitis C.
Hiatal hernia is a condition in which a thin membrane of tissue connects the esophagus with the diaphragm becoming weak, and a portion of the stomach slides up into the esophagus. Causes include obesity, pregnancy, straining during a bowel movement, aging, and ascites. There are generally no symptoms of a hiatal hernia, and it is discovered during another medical procedure to test for GERD or other swallowing problems.
How Do I Get Rid of the Stomach Flu?
The medical treatment for stomach flu is based on maintaining adequate hydration and body sodium-potassium levels. The treatment for stomach flu initially consists of self-care measures such as drinking fluids, replacing lost electrolytes, resting, eating a bland diet and seeking medical attention if you need to.
How Do You Relieve Upper Stomach Pain?
What causes upper stomach pain? Learn what can cause upper stomach pain and what remedies can help relieve symptoms.
How Do You Stop Stomach Cramps?
Try following these home care steps to alleviate stomach cramps including resting, drinking water, eating bland foods and avoiding offending foods. Exercise, safe food handling and stress reduction may also help alleviate stomach cramps.
How Long Does the Stomach Flu Last?
Stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a virus that infects your stomach. Although the term has flu in it, it is not a true flu. Symptoms that include vomiting and diarrhea, fever and stomach pain can last for one to three days depending on the cause. Diarrhea may persist longer, for up to 10 days, after the disappearance of other symptoms.
Indigestion (Dyspepsia, Upset Stomach Pain)
Indigestion (dyspepsia, upset stomach) can be caused by problems related to, or not related to the gastrointestinal tract. Signs and symptoms are upper abdominal pain, belching, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and abdominal distention. Treatment depends upon the cause.
Intestinal Gas and Gas Pain
Intestinal gas and painful bloating are common. Learn about what causes gas pain and how eliminating certain foods from your diet can help relieve symptoms.
Intussusception is the telescoping (prolapse) of a portion of the intestine within another immediately adjacent portion of intestine. Intussusception affects children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years of age. The causes of intussusception is not clearly understood. Symptoms of intussusception include bilious vomiting, "currant jelly stool," and colicky abdominal pain. Intussusception is an emergency requires immediate attention.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a GI disorder with symptoms of constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. IBS treatment includes medications, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes.
Is Colitis Contagious?
Colitis is a term that us used to describe inflammation of the colon. The terms enteritis, proctitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) now include colitis. Colitis has many different causes. Some types of colitis are contagious and some are not contagious. Symptoms and signs of colitis include diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, cramping, pain, and blood in the stools. Treatment for colitis depends on the cause and type of colitis.
Is Salmonella Contagious?
Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause a variety of diseases. Salmonella can be transmitted via direct and indirect contact. Salmonellosis typically lasts for 3-5 days and resolves on its own. Supportive care to prevent dehydration due to nausea and vomiting is usually the only treatment.
Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis)
Kidney stones are solid masses of crystalline material that form in the kidneys. Symptoms and signs of kidney stones can include pain, nausea, vomiting, and even fever and chills. Kidney stones are diagnosed via CT scans and specialized X-rays. Treatment of kidney stones involves drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter pain medications to medical intervention including prescription medications, lithotripsy, and sometimes even surgery.
Lactose intolerance is a common problem where a person's digestive system cannot digest lactose. Signs and symptoms include: Diarrhea Gas Abdominal pain Abdominal bloating Abdominal distention (swelling) Nausea There are several tests to diagnose lactose intolerance. Treatment is generally made with dietary changes, supplements, and adaptation to small amounts of milk.
Menstrual cramps (pain in the belly and pelvic area) are experienced by women as a result of menses. Menstrual cramps are not the same as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Menstrual cramps are common, and may be accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Severity of menstrual cramp pain varies from woman to woman. Treatment includes OTC or prescription pain relief medication.
Peptic Ulcer (Stomach Ulcer)
Peptic or stomach ulcers are ulcers in the lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. Learn about symptoms, causes, diet, and treatment.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon. Symptoms and signs include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is closely related to Crohn's disease, and together they are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease. Treatment depends upon the type of ulcerative colitis diagnosed.
Why Do I Have Stomach Pain at Night?
Stomach pains are a common human ailment, but stomach pains that wake you up at night should be taken seriously. Learn about stomach pains, their causes, and how to treat them. An upset stomach is most likely to get better with simple home remedies, such as drinking the following herbal beverages.
Why Does My Stomach Hurt After Every Meal?
Stomach pain after meals is a symptom of many conditions. Learn the signs of stomach pain after every meal, what causes stomach pain, how doctors diagnose stomach pain, and what you can do to treat stomach pain after every meal. Your digestive system breaks down food into nutrients your body needs to function properly. Here are 6 ways to improve digestive health and promote healthy gut bacteria.
Examples of Medications for Stomach Cramps
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