What is stomach pain?
Stomach pain is pain in the abdomen and it’s one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor’s office. Upper stomach pain may be caused by GERD, heartburn, gastritis, pancreatitis and ulcers.
Stomach pain is a common reason many people visit the doctor’s office. If you are experiencing any of the following, you may want to consider seeing your doctor:
- Severe pain
- Pain that doesn’t go away
- Other symptoms in addition to pain in your upper stomach
Signs and symptoms of pain in upper stomach
People experiencing pain in the upper stomach may have only one symptom or may have a combination of several symptoms. Here are some of the most common symptoms of pain in the upper stomach:
Belching (often referred to as burping) is natural and common. It’s your body’s way of getting rid of excess air. Everyone belches from time to time. However, if it interferes with your day-to-day life, it could be a sign of something more serious.
Nausea and vomiting
Nausea is an uncomfortable sensation in the stomach that leads to the urge to vomit, but doesn’t always cause vomiting. Vomiting (also known as “throwing up”) happens when you empty your stomach contents through your mouth.
Most people have a regular desire to eat, but if you lose this desire, or “appetite,” the reason could be connected to pain in the upper stomach.
An unexplained drop in weight can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Pain in the upper stomach combined with weight loss could be related to disorders that prevent your body from absorbing the nutrients it needs.
Causes of pain in upper stomach
There are several causes of pain in the upper stomach. Some upper stomach pain goes away on its own. For others, pain in the upper stomach may indicate there are underlying issues, such as:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Pain in the upper stomach may be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is an irritation caused by acid in the stomach that backs up into the throat. When the acid comes through, it causes a burning sensation.
When the muscle that normally keeps acid down in the stomach doesn’t work properly, it can lead to heartburn (when acid in the stomach backs up into the throat). If you experience heartburn a few times a week or if over-the-counter antacids aren’t working, you may want to call your doctor.
Inflammation of the stomach (gastritis)
Sometimes pain in the upper stomach may be caused by gastritis. Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach as a result of a bacterial infection.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the large gland behind the stomach (known as the pancreas), Normally, digestive fluid travels from the pancreas to the small intestine and activates to help digest food. If this fluid activates while it’s still inside the pancreas, it causes irritation and inflammation.
Pain in the upper stomach may be due to ulcers (sores in the lining of the stomach). Different things can cause ulcers, most commonly bacteria or anti-inflammatory drugs that damage the stomach’s lining over time. Symptoms of ulcers may include a burning sensation, nausea, vomiting, or heartburn.
Diagnosing pain in upper stomach
Your doctor may be able to diagnose pain in the upper stomach with a physical exam. They’ll check the area causing you pain and discuss your symptoms. You may also need urine, blood, and stool tests. The doctor may also order an X-ray or CT scan, ultrasound, barium swallow, or endoscopy.
Treatments for pain in upper stomach
Treatments for pain in the upper stomach depend on the underlying cause. Some pain in the upper stomach can be treated with over-the-counter medicine or a simple lifestyle change. Other pain in the upper stomach may be cause for a more extensive treatment administered by your doctor.
Some other treatments for pain in the upper stomach could include prescribed medication, surgery, or changes to your diet. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist, or a doctor who specializes in digestive tract disorders.
Medically Reviewed on 3/2/2021
American Family Physician: “Evaluation of Nausea and Vomiting.”
American Family Physician: “Gas, Bloating, and Belching.”
Aurora Health Care: “Stomach/Abdominal Pain.”
Fairview: “Epigastric Pain (Uncertain Cause).”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Gastritis.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Why Does My Stomach Hurt?”
Mana Medical Associates: “What Causes Upper Stomach Pain?”
Mount Sinai: “Abdominal Pain.”
National Health Service: “Unintentional weight loss.”
Patient: “Loss of Appetite.”
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