Abdominal Pain

Abdominal Pain

Contact your doctor for pain that is severe or doesn't settle quickly.

Stomach upset and pain is common and can be caused by a variety of conditions such as: food poisoning /infections, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, constipation, wind, period pains, urinary tract infections

Indigestion: Also known as dyspepsia, is often described as 'heartburn', which you may experience as a burning pain behind your breastbone (sternum) This usually happens after eating certain types of food. The foods might be fatty or very rich.  

Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. It may cause upper abdominal pain (just below your breastbone). The pain is often described as a burning feeling.  For more on the management of gastritis and indigestion

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - Is a common gut disorder. The cause is not known. Symptoms can be quite variable and include abdominal pain, wind, bloating, and sometimes bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go. 

Constipation means either going to the toilet less often than usual to empty the bowels or passing hard or painful stools (faeces). Sometimes crampy pains occur in the lower abdomen. You may also feel bloated and sick if you have severe constipation. Constipation may be caused by not eating enough fibre, or not drinking enough fluids. It can also be a side-effect of certain medicines, or related to an underlying medical condition. In many cases, the cause is not clear. Laxatives are a group of medicines that can treat constipation. Ideally, laxatives should only be used for short periods of time until symptoms ease.

Wind: Crampy pains after eating may be wind. Your abdomen may feel swollen or bloated. If you are able to go to the toilet and open your bowels or pass wind the pain usually goes. 

Other more serious causes of abdominal pain include:–

Stomach and duodenal ulcers, kidney stones, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease and inflammatory bowel disease

Stomach and duodenal ulcers (peptic ulcers) -A peptic ulcer is an open sore that develops on the inside lining of the stomach (a gastric ulcer), or the small intestine (a duodenal ulcer).  The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is a burning or gnawing pain in the centre of the abdomen (stomach). 

Kidney stones occur when chemicals being cleared from our bodies by our kidneys join together forming stones. Pain that starts in your back and seems to travel around the side of your abdomen to your groin. The pain is severe and comes and goes.

More information - Kidney stones and their management

Appendicitis means inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small pouch that comes off the gut wall. It is a medical emergency as, left untreated, the appendix can burst or perforate.

The typical symptoms of appendicitis are:

  • Pain, often starting as a dull ache around the tummy button, getting worse and more constant over several hours and moving to the lower right tummy.
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting).
  • Loss of appetite.
  • High temperature (fever).
  • Bloating.
  • Diarrhoea.

If you think you have appendicitis you must see a doctor immediately.

The usual treatment of appendicitis is an operation to remove the inflamed appendix. This is usually by keyhole surgery.  The aim is to do this before it bursts (perforates), as a perforated appendix is a very serious condition.

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause abdominal pain with bloody diarrhoea and a generally unwell feeling.  There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease: Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis. They are both conditions which cause inflammation in the gut.

When to see a doctor for abdominal (stomach) pain

Please call to the student health centre or go and see your doctor if you are concerned about any kind of abdominal pain or stomach ache.