What causes stomach pain and dizziness?

Stomach pain and dizziness have a wide range of causes, including dehydration, anxiety, and food poisoning. In some cases, stomach pain and dizziness may indicate a more serious condition.

This article will explain the causes of stomach pain and dizziness, and describe the symptoms and treatments for each condition.

Causes of stomach pain and dizziness

What causes stomach pain and dizziness?
Stomach pain and dizziness tend to have mild causes, but they can signal something more serious.

Effects after drinking alcohol

People will experience effects after drinking a lot of alcohol. Some common effects include:

  • fatigue
  • thirst
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sweating
  • stomach pain
  • dizziness
  • sensitivity to light and sound

Treatment involves drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce headaches. Most people with effects after drinking alcohol feel better after 24 hours or more.

Dehydration

A lack of fluids in the body can cause dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration include:

  • thirst
  • dry mouth or lips
  • dark urine
  • less frequent urination
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

A 2004 study into abdominal pain found a link between fluid loss and stomach cramping, which may mean that a person with dehydration also experiences stomach pain.

Treatment for mild dehydration involves drinking fluids, electrolyte replacements, or oral rehydration solutions. If someone has severe symptoms of dehydration — such as confusion, lethargy, or loss of consciousness — they need emergency help.

Stomach flu

Stomach flu is the common name for gastroenteritis, which is an infection in the intestines. Gastroenteritis can develop due to viruses, bacteria, or parasites, but one of the most common causes of vomiting and diarrhea due to acute gastroenteritis is norovirus. Norovirus is highly contagious.

The symptoms of stomach flu include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches

Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration, which leads to dizziness and lightheadedness. Eating contaminated food may also lead to food poisoning, which causes very similar symptoms.

Norovirus typically improves within 1–3 days. Staying hydrated can prevent dehydration. However, if a person struggles to keep fluids down or does not get better, they should see a doctor.

Menstruation

A 2012 study into lightheadedness at different stages of the menstrual cycle found that healthy females were most likely to feel lightheaded during their menstrual period.

Because the time before and during a menstrual period can also be when menstrual cramps occur, a woman can experience stomach pain and dizziness as a result of her hormone levels.

Menopause

One 2014 study found that perimenopausal females were especially likely to experience benign vertigo when compared with older males and people of other age groups.

As menstrual cramping can continue during perimenopause, some females may experience both. Typically, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 58.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, and in some cases, it helps people respond to danger. However, people with anxiety disorders feel anxiety in situations that are not truly dangerous, such as social gatherings.

Anxiety can cause a range of physical symptoms, including:

  • sweating
  • rapid heartbeat
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • dizziness
  • muscle tension

Anxiety treatments include talk therapy and stress management techniques such as mindfulness. Medications can also help reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Rapid emptying the stomach

Rapid emptying the stomach occurs when food in the stomach empties into the small intestine too quickly. It is a common side effect of gastrectomy, which is a surgical procedure that removes all or part of the stomach.

Some symptoms of this condition include:

  • stomach cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • cold sweats

A person can manage rapid emptying the stomach by making certain dietary changes and, sometimes, by taking medications that slow stomach emptying.

Rarely, doctors will recommend surgery as a last resort.

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis occurs due to sudden inflammation of the pancreas. The inflammation can be caused by gallstones, alcohol misuse, infections, or certain genetic disorders.

The symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • pain in the upper abdomen that may spread to the back
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • a fast heartbeat
  • a swollen or painful abdomen

If a person with pancreatitis becomes dehydrated, they may also feel dizzy.

People with pancreatitis need medical treatment right away. Typically, acute pancreatitis will get better after several days of treatment, but some people may develop more severe symptoms that require a hospital stay.

Gastrointestinal bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding is a serious condition with a variety of potential causes, including peptic ulcers.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding include:

  • tarry or bloody stools
  • bloody vomit, or vomit that looks similar to coffee grounds
  • abdominal cramping
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • weakness

People who are experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding should see a doctor. If the bleeding is sudden, it is an emergency.

Heart attack

Some people have stomach pain when they are experiencing a heart attack. In this case, the pain may spread from the chest area to the upper stomach region.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), during a heart attack, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms other than chest pain.

Someone needs to call the emergency services immediately if a person experiences:

  • a sensation of pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of the chest
  • pain in the chest, in one or both arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweats
  • nausea or vomiting
  • lightheadedness

Rare causes

  • Cancer: Some forms of cancer may cause dizziness, stomach pain, or both. People with lymphoma, for example, may experience dizziness and pain behind the ribs.
  • Acute adrenal insufficiency: This problem occurs when the adrenal glands stop working, causing a shortage of cortisol. Symptoms include fatigue, low blood pressure, dizziness, and muscle spasms in the legs or back.
  • Toxic megacolon: This condition causes the large intestine to dilate. It is a complication of infectious colitis, which may occur due to inflammatory bowel disease or infection. Symptoms include fever, a fast heart rate, dehydration, and an enlarged colon.

These conditions can be very serious and require immediate treatment.

Diagnose the causes of stomach pain and dizziness

To diagnose the cause of stomach pain and dizziness, a doctor will perform a physical examination and review a person’s medical history. The doctor may also request medical imaging or blood tests.

Because there are many causes of stomach pain and dizziness, you need to describe the symptoms to the doctor in as much detail as possible.

When do you need to see a doctor ?

Anyone with persistent or severe stomach pain needs to see a doctor. That person needs immediate help if they experience:

  • fever or sweating
  • pale skin
  • blood in the urine or stool
  • inability to pass gas, urine, or stools
  • pain that spreads to the chest, neck, or shoulders
  • pain, vomiting, and shortness of breath
  • pain and vomiting blood
  • pain in the scrotum
  • pain with vaginal bleeding, if pregnant

Treatment at home

If the cause of stomach pain and dizziness is not serious, a person can relieve the symptoms by treating at home.

For example, people can try:

  • getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids
  • applying heat to the stomach
  • taking a warm bath
  • avoiding foods and beverages that may irritate the stomach, such as coffee, alcohol, and spices

But you should note that these methods are not substitutes for medical treatment.

Summary

Stomach pain and dizziness have a wide range of causes. Many causes, such as effects from drinking alcohol and mild dehydration, are treatable at home. Drinking a plenty of water, resting, and using applying heat can help ease symptoms.

However, if someone experiences persistent or severe symptoms, they should seek advice from a doctor.

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