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Sharp pain in stomach

Updated on October 20, 2013

Sharp pain in stomach refers to a stabbing, burning and painful sensation in the abdominal area. Such pain is typically construed as pain in the stomach but it can be caused due to abnormalities of any of the varied organs located in the abdomen such as the kidneys, pancreases, intestines, appendix or the gallbladder.

Causes of sharp pain in stomach

As per the kind of ailment affecting the patient, sharp pain in stomach can be prolonged or acute, mild or severe. There are many disorders such as stomach flu, GERD, lactose intolerance, UTI etc that can result in sharp pain in stomach.

Some of the causes of sharp pain in stomach and its associated symptoms are discussed below.

  • Lactose intolerance: Individuals with lactose intolerance may elicit sharp pain in stomach, about 30 minutes to 2 hours after intake of milk or milk products. The severity of the pain is dependent on the tolerance capacity of the patient. Additional symptoms include diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea and pain in abdomen.

  • Stomach or peptic ulcers: Individuals affected by stomach ulcers are most likely to elicit a gnawing and dull or sharp pain in the stomach. Such pain usually has a sudden onset. The pain aggravates when you have not eaten for long periods and generally subsides after eating. Other symptoms of peptic ulcers include vomiting, indigestion, nausea, heartburn, gas and dark stools.

  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD: Patients of GERD may experience sharp pain in the upper stomach area, along with difficulties in swallowing, chest pain and a sour taste in their mouth. Some affected individuals may also suffer from hoarseness, sore throat, cough and nausea.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome: It is a digestive disorder that causes discomfort below the chest and above the pelvic area. Patients may also experience changes in the pattern of bowel movements, along with possible alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Bloating, heartburn and nausea may also be noticed.

  • Food poisoning: Different types of toxic pathogens like parasites, bacteria and viruses occur in contaminated food and drinks. Intake of such adulterated food items can cause sharp pain in stomach and varied other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, burning sensations in stomach, abdominal cramping and watery stools.

  • Urinary tract infection or UTI: A UTI can also result in sharp pain in stomach. The pain typically occurs in the lower abdominal area. Patients experience burning sensations when passing urine, while affected women may suffer from pain during intercourse. Some other common symptoms of a UTI include nausea, chills, bloody urine, mild fever and putrid urine odor.

  • Appendicitis: Sharp pain in stomach can also be a symptom of appendicitis. The pain will typically be extremely intense. It begins near the umbilicus and migrates to the lower right abdominal side. There may be swelling or inflammation of the stomach, worsening of pain while coughing or sneezing and constipation. Additional symptoms include nausea, appetite loss and vomiting.

  • Pancreatitis: It is a condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. The associated sharp pain in stomach can be burning or achy. Patients may also elicit vomiting, aggravation of pain post meals, nausea and migration of pain to the back.

  • Kidney stones: When pain commences in the back just under the rib cage and then radiates to the abdominal region, then it may possibly indicate the presence of kidney stones in one or both the kidneys. The pain associated with kidney stones is agonizing and very discomforting. Patients may also experience other signs like vomiting, increased desire to urinate frequently, nausea, cloudy or bloody urine and fever.

  • Diverticulitis: It is identified by inflammation of the diverticula pouches. Rupture of these pouches can cause the waste to spill into the abdominal cavity. Both can lead to sharp pain in stomach, as well as vomiting, loss of weight, nausea and chills.

  • Ectopic pregnancy: It is detected during five to ten weeks of pregnancy. Prominent symptoms of early ectopic pregnancy include pain in lower abdomen and sudden and sharp pain in stomach. Additional symptoms include abnormal bleeding from vagina, vomiting, nausea and low blood pressure.

  • Hiatus hernia: Patients may experience heartburn along with sharp pressure in the upper abdominal area. Frequent hiccups, nausea and swallowing problems are also observed.

Treatment of sharp pain in stomach

As discussed above, sharp pain in stomach can be caused due to a variety of underlying disorders. Most conditions can be treated with medications while a few like appendicitis and hernia may require surgical intervention. It is important for patients to consult a doctor whenever the pain in stomach is severe.

  • Mild cases of pain in stomach can be alleviated with non-prescription antacids. Home remedies include intake of lots of water, a cold glass of milk, yogurt and/or a solution made from crushed cilantro leaves, water and sugar.

  • Precautionary measures include engaging in activities to relieve excess stress and avoiding heavy meals or spicy foods to prevent acidity.


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