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Stomach ache and abdominal pain

A stomach ache is a term often used to refer to cramps or a dull ache in the tummy (abdomen). It's usually short-lived and is often not serious.

Severe abdominal pain is a greater cause for concern. If it starts suddenly and unexpectedly, it should be regarded as a medical emergency, especially if the pain is concentrated in a particular area.

Call your GP as soon as possible or go to your nearest hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department if this is the case.

Sudden severe abdominal pain

If you have sudden agonising pain in a particular area of your tummy, call your GP immediately or go to your nearest A&E department. It may be a sign of a serious problem that could rapidly get worse without treatment. Serious causes of sudden severe abdominal pain include:

Appendicitis the swelling of the appendix (a finger-like pouch connected to the large intestine), which causes agonising pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen, and means your appendix will need to be removed
A bleeding or perforated stomach ulcer a bleeding, open sore in the lining of your stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine)
Acute cholecystitis inflammation of the gallbladder, which is often caused by gallstones; in many cases, your gallbladder will need to be removed
Kidney stones small stones may be passed out in your urine, but larger stones may block the kidney tubes, and you'll need to go to to have them broken up
Diverticulitis inflammation of the small pouches in the bowel that sometimes requires treatment with antibiotics in hospital

If your GP suspects you have one of these conditions, they may refer you to hospital immediately. Sudden and severe pain in your abdomen can also sometimes be caused by an infection of the stomach and bowel (gastroenteritis).

It may also be caused by a pulled muscle in your abdomen or by an injury.
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