Stomach pain may be a symptom of a variety of conditions ranging from minor to life-threatening. Prolonged stomach pain can cause significant disability and may be a sign of a more serious condition such as cancer or perforated ulcer. Variations in symptoms, such as the location of the pain and what triggers or relieves it, can help identify the causes behind it.
A peptic ulcer is an erosion in the lining of the stomach or small intestine. According to Merck.com, approximately 50 percent of gastric ulcers are caused by H. Pylori infection. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers and consumption of spicy or acidic foods can also aggravate the condition.
The pain associated with a peptic ulcer is generally a burning, gnawing pain in the upper abdomen that is relieved by eating or taking antacids. Treatment usually includes use of a proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec along with antibiotics such as amoxicillin and tetracycline to address the bacterial infection.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly known as GERD, occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, irritating the esophageal lining. Acidic and spicy foods are common triggers for symptoms, as is excess stress, which can cause an increase in stomach acid production.
Symptoms typical of GERD include heartburn, indigestion and a burning sensation in the stomach or throat. Some people also experience regurgitation of food and trouble swallowing. Antacids and proton pump inhibitors along with dietary changes are common treatments for GERD.
Inflammatory conditions are an increasingly common cause of abdominal pain, according to MedicineNet,com. A few of these include irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, Celiac disease and ulcerative colitis. Genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of these diseases, though certain foods and stress can cause a worsening of symptoms.
Despite individual differences, inflammatory bowel diseases share a number of similarities. Pain is generally aggravated by excess motion and may be relieved by bowel movements. Fever and diarrhea may also signal an inflammatory response by the immune system. Treatment for inflammatory conditions usually includes use of an immunosuppressant or anti-inflammatory drug in conjunction with dietary changes.
Stomach cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the stomach. There are several types of stomach cancer, including gastric, diffuse type and intestinal adenocarcinoma.
Early symptoms of stomach cancer include loss of appetite and heartburn or indigestion, while late stage symptoms may include abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, bloating and weight loss. Because the symptoms usually aren’t caught until the disease has progressed, the prognosis for stomach cancer is generally poor. Symptoms mimic those of other stomach conditions, making the disease harder to recognize. Treatment for stomach cancer usually includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
If you experience stomach pain lasting longer than two weeks, consult a medical professional to avoid serious complications. Your doctor can run tests to rule out more serious diseases like cancer and help you get the best treatment for your condition.