Stomach problems are typically related to the digestive tract and the result of various conditions that affect digestion. However, symptoms such as gas, bloating, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation can also be due to conditions of the abdominal wall, blood vessels, urinary tract, reproductive organs, or even chest organs.
Generalized stomach problems may be due to diet, infection, or inflammation. In women, stomach problems may be related to the menstrual cycle, infection, or other conditions of the reproductive organs.
What causes stomach problems?
Stomach problems are typically due to problems in the digestive tract. However, other disorders of the circulatory system, urinary tract, reproductive system, respiratory system, or nervous system may also be associated with stomach problems.
Digestive tract causes
- Bacterial, parasitic or viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract
- Celiac disease (severe gluten sensitivity that causes intestinal damage)
- Diverticulitis (inflammation of an abnormal pocket in the large intestine)
- Lactose and other food intolerance
- Gallbladder disease
- Liver disease
- Diseases of the pancreas
- Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcers of the stomach or duodenum (first section of the small intestine)
- Abdominal hernia (weakening in the abdominal wall through which internal organs can pass)
- Cancer of an abdominal or pelvic organ
- Endometriosis (tissues resembling the uterine lining grow in other areas of the body outside the uterus)
- Kidney stones
- Menstrual cramps
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (infection of female reproductive organs)
- Pleurisy (inflammation of the lining around the lungs)
- Pneumonia (lung infection)
- Shingles (a painful, blistering rash that results from a reactivation of the varicella-zoster or chickenpox virus)
- Urinary tract infection
Serious or life-threatening causes
- Abdominal abscess (pus collection)
- Abdominal, pelvic or testicular trauma
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm (life-threatening bulging and weakening of the wall of the abdominal aorta that can burst and cause severe bleeding)
- Bowel obstruction or perforation
- Acute pancreatitis
- Chemical or heavy metal poisoning
- Colonic volvulus (twisting of the colon) or intussusception (telescoping of the intestines into themselves)
- Ectopic pregnancy (life-threatening pregnancy growing outside the uterus)
- Intestinal ischemia (loss of blood supply to the intestines leading to the death of intestinal tissue)
- Heart attack
- Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining around the abdomen)
- Torsion of an ovary or a testicle (twisting of an ovary or spermatic cord)
What symptoms may accompany stomach problems?
Depending on the underlying cause, stomach issues may be accompanied by other symptoms, indicating problems in the digestive tract or other body systems.
Digestive problem symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Abdominal swelling
- Belching (burping)
- Bloody stools (may appear red, black, or tarry and stick to the toilet)
- Alternating diarrhea and constipation
- Vomiting blood (appears red or like coffee grounds)
- Urgent need to pass stools
- Burning chest pain
- Loss of appetite
Other body system problem symptoms
When to see a doctor about stomach problems
Mild stomach problems may resolve on their own or with some lifestyle modifications in a few days. However, if symptoms persist, it is important to seek medical care. Stomach problems that are accompanied by the following signs and symptoms may indicate a serious life-threatening condition and require emergency treatment:
- Bleeding and abdominal pain during pregnancy
- Mental confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain, tightness, or pressure
- High-grade fever (over 101 degrees F)
- Inability to pass stools
- Bloody diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in urine
- Vomiting blood
- Breathing difficulty
- Rigid appearance to the abdomen
- Severe abdominal pain or sharp abdominal pain that comes on suddenly
- Trauma to the abdomen, pelvis, or testicles
- Severe dehydration
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