Stomach pain and discomfort can indicate a serious medical condition.
Stomach or abdominal pain and discomfort in Singapore are often experienced as unpleasant and uncomfortable sensations in the tummy or belly area that may interfere with everyday activities. Abdominal pain can originate from organs other than the stomach and may be:
- Constant or intermittent
- Acute or chronic
- Localised in one spot
- Generalised all over
Although stomach pain and discomfort are common and can happen to anyone at any age, it may indicate a serious health condition. In general, stomach pain and discomfort are associated with digestive issues but may also be linked to other organs. There are several causes of stomach pain and discomfort, including:
- Indigestion, gas, and bloating: also known as dyspepsia, indigestion triggered by overeating, spicy foods, stress, or a high-fat diet can cause stomach pain and discomfort and a feeling of fullness. It may also cause gas and bloating, which leads to pain and discomfort in the tummy.
- Viruses or bacteria: viral or bacterial infections of the stomach and intestines, commonly called ‘stomach flu’, can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.
- Constipation: constipation can also lead to stomach discomfort and pain.
- Medical conditions: certain conditions such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), gastritis, peptic ulcers, kidney stones, pancreatitis, gallstones, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can cause frequent stomach pain and discomfort.
- Appendicitis: appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix that is located in the lower right abdomen. It often causes severe and progressive pain in the stomach that requires urgent medical attention.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that often causes stomach pain and discomfort, which may be triggered by eating certain foods or stress.
- Diverticulitis: inflammation of small pouches (diverticula) in the colon can lead to lower left stomach pain, fever, and bowel habit problems.
- Hernia: a hernia develops when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. It can cause a bulge, along with pain and discomfort.
- Menstrual cramps: menstrual cramps often cause lower stomach pain, bloating, and discomfort in females during their menstrual period.
- Urinary tract infection (UTI): UTIs can cause lower stomach discomfort or pain, frequent urination, and a burning sensation during urination.
- Cancers: certain cancers, such as colorectal or colon cancer, can cause abdominal pain and discomfort.
High-stress levels can worsen stomach pain and discomfort when left unmanaged.
Symptoms of stomach pain include:
- Aching and pain
- Dull or sharp pain
Anyone at any age can develop stomach pain and discomfort. However, those with underlying health conditions or lifestyle factors can have a higher risk of stomach pain and discomfort.
As stomach pain and discomfort are symptoms of other conditions, there are many ways to diagnose these conditions. In general, these are the ways that conditions associated with stomach pain and discomfort are diagnosed:
- Medical history and physical examination: your colorectal specialist will often take a medical history to determine the exact cause. A physical exam may also be conducted to check for bloating, tenderness, masses, or location of the pain.
- Blood and urine tests: blood and urine tests may be ordered to check for signs of infection, inflammation, or organ function problems.
- Imaging tests: if the pain is severe or does not go away with other treatment, or the patient has an underlying health condition, imaging tests such as an ultrasound or computed tomography scans (CT scan) may be recommended
- Gastroscopy: a gastroscopy involves guiding a thin, flexible tube through the mouth and into the stomach and small intestine to check for abnormalities.
- Colonoscopy: a colonoscopy might be recommended if concerns about other gastrointestinal conditions exist. This involves using a long, flexible tube with a camera to examine the entire colon and rectum.
- Stool analysis: a sample of your stool or blood may be taken to check for infection or other issues.
Treatment for stomach pain and discomfort in Singapore depends on the individual and the underlying cause behind the symptoms. In general, these are the treatment options:
- Dietary and lifestyle changes: your colorectal specialist may recommend modifying your diet to include more fibre, increasing hydration, and eliminating high-fat and spicy foods. Stress management and regular exercise may also be advised to improve gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications: antacids, Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), and anti-gas medications may alleviate stomach pain and discomfort. Prescription medications such as H2 blockers may also help. If the pain is caused by an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
- Surgery: in cases where gallstones, ulcers, or bowel obstructions are causing stomach pain, surgical procedures may be necessary.