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10 Causes Of Upper Stomach Pain

About Upper Stomach Pain:

Stomach pain is perhaps the most common complaint that both children and adults have. While stomach pain around the abdominal region is quite common, having pain on the upper half of the stomach might have some concerning causes. This is because the upper part of the stomach houses many vital organs of the body to include the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. Indigestion, gas, and infections are some of the more benign causes for upper stomach pain there are also certain medical conditions that cause it that need medical treatment. In many cases, upper stomach pain caused due to underlying medical conditions is interrelated. This means that one condition leads to the development of the second condition and so on [2].

As an example, upper stomach pain caused due to ulcers often leads to problems with digestion, and gallstones as a cause of upper stomach pain can cause problems with liver function. The diversity of the causes of upper stomach pain makes the cause of this condition a challenge for physicians to diagnose. Upper GI endoscopy for infections and other imaging studies are quite useful tools for an accurate diagnosis but accuracy of the diagnosis is always debatable [1].

However, early endoscopy is preferred in cases when patients show other symptoms along with upper stomach pain that may be a cause of worry. This is especially necessary for people above the age of 55. This article highlights the 10 most common causes for upper stomach pain [1].

10 Common Causes Of Upper Stomach Pain

10 Common Causes Of Upper Stomach Pain

Gas: This is perhaps the most common and benign cause of Upper Stomach Pain. Gas is present naturally in the stomach and in the digestive tract on the whole. Excess accumulation of this can at times puts pressure on the upper half of the stomach causing the individual to have Upper Stomach Pain along with a feeling of pressure on the stomach and bloating. If gas is coupled with infections causing diarrhea or constipation then the pain tends to get worse [2].

A gas is believed to be the cause of Upper Stomach Pain if the pain waxes and wanes. There is visible swelling along the abdomen when the pain occurs. The patient will also pass gas frequently. There is also presence of excessive burping. Gas causing Upper Stomach Pain can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications. It is also recommended that the patient eats food that are less gassy like avoiding potatoes or food products containing them [2].

Eating more slowly is also recommended to prevent gas from entering the stomach through the mouth while eating. It is common for gas to resolve spontaneously within a few hours. However, if Upper Stomach Pain due to gas occurs with nausea, vomiting, and fever then a consultation with a physician is warranted [2].

Indigestion: This is again a common cause for Upper Stomach Pain. This is medically referred to as dyspepsia. It causes the individual to have a burning feeling in the stomach, throat, and sometimes even the mouth. This is mostly caused when an individual eats too much acidic, hot, or spicy food. In rare cases, indigestion can occur as a result of ulcers in the stomach or acid reflux [2].

If an individual has frequent episodes of dyspepsia with unintentional weight loss then it could be sign of a serious underlying medical condition. This needs to be evaluated by a physician and appropriate test needs to be done to find a cause and treat it. In other cases, over-the-counter medications and home remedies can take care of indigestion effectively. It is important to note which foods can trigger indigestion so that it can be avoided to prevent episodes of indigestion and Upper Stomach Pain [2].

Gastritis: This is a condition in which the lining of the stomach gets inflamed and irritated. This is also one of the causes for Upper Stomach Pain. Gastritis can be acute and chronic. While acute gastritis is caused due to bacterial infection, chronic gastritis is caused due to inflammation and the symptom onset is more gradual than acute gastritis. Chronic gastritis is usually caused due to certain medical conditions like Crohn Disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, and viral infections [2].

The primary mode of treatment for acute gastritis is antibiotics. In cases of chronic gastritis, identifying and treating the underlying cause is the standard mode of treatment. In mild cases of gastritis, symptoms can be controlled by dietary modifications and eating less acidic foods. Taking pain medications also can help the Upper Stomach Pain caused due to gastritis [2].

Stomach Infections: Viral infections in the stomach also at times cause the affected individual to have Upper Stomach Pain. One such condition is gastroenteritis. Apart from the pain in the stomach, this condition also causes diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea along with headaches and muscle pain. People with gastroenteritis generally remain fatigued and have very little energy to do anything. Gastroenteritis usually resolves once the virus runs its course for a few days. During the time, when the symptoms are at their peak avoiding heavy food and drinking liquids like soup and juices can help with the symptoms [2].

People with gastroenteritis tend to be at increased risk for dehydration due to constant diarrhea. This is why it is essential for such people to keep themselves hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Medical treatment is required to treat dehydration in babies and people with a compromised immune system [2].

Muscle Pain: Upper Stomach Pain at times is also caused due to muscle related issues. A muscle injury or spasms usually causes Upper Stomach Pain. Massaging the area gently and applying hot or cold packs generally relieves the symptoms. A consultation with a physician is recommended in cases where there is no improvement seen after these treatments [2].

Appendicitis: This is a serious medical condition in which there is inflammation of the appendix with an increased likelihood of a rupture. If the condition is not treated, it may lead to potentially life-threatening complications. Upper Stomach Pain may be experienced during the initial stages of appendicitis. This pain then radiates to the right lower quadrant as the condition progresses. Appendectomy is the primary treatment for treating appendicitis [2].

Gallstones: This is also quite a serious cause for Upper Stomach Pain. Untreated gallstones can obstruct the flow of bile from the gallbladder to the intestine. Gallstones are formed when there is accumulation of cholesterol and bilirubin in the gallbladder which crystalize and form lumps. The blockage caused by the gallstones is the reason behind the affected individual having severe Upper Stomach Pain [2].

Accompanying symptoms include severe fatigue, vomiting, and lethargy. If gallstones remain untreated then it may impair the functioning of the liver and the pancreas causing excess bilirubin to accumulate resulting in jaundice. The primary mode of treatment of gallstones is by removing the gallbladder. In cases where the stones are small and pass on their own through urine then the patient may be recommended to eat a low fat diet to prevent the stones from recurring [2].

Liver/Pancreas Dysfunction: The process of digestion cannot fully take place without the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder working in coordination. All the three organs form a part of the upper stomach. Thus a dysfunction in any of these organs tends to cause Upper Stomach Pain. Hepatitis or pancreatitis is an infection which impairs the function of the liver and the pancreas. Both these conditions cause severe Upper Stomach Pain [2].

An individual with a dysfunctional liver or pancreas will have yellowing of the eyes and skin, cloudy urine, pale colored bowels, and nausea with vomiting along with Upper Stomach Pain. Both hepatitis and pancreatitis require treatment for which the underlying cause needs to be identified. This will require a battery of tests to be conducted on the part of the physician [2].

An inpatient stay may be needed in some cases to get to the bottom of the cause and formulate a treatment plan. In severe cases of liver dysfunction, a liver transplant may be required but this is quite rare in cases of Upper Stomach Pain. If liver and pancreas cancer are believed to be responsible for Upper Stomach Pain then the patient will require chemotherapy and radiation along with the possibility of surgery to treat the condition [2].

Bowel Obstruction: This is also one of the causes for Upper Stomach Pain. A bowel obstruction occurs when there is a blockage of the intestines. The blockage will result in the digested food not being able to pass through the intestines. This will cause excruciating Upper Stomach Pain. The accompanying symptoms in cases of bowel obstruction include vomiting bile, constipation, swelling of the abdominal region, significant abdominal cramps [2].

Bowel obstruction is an emergent medical condition and requires immediate treatment to prevent infection and other complications. Medications and pain relievers are the frontline treatment for this condition. In rare cases however surgery may be required to remove the blockage and normalize the flow through the intestines [2].

Diverticular Disease: This is a medical condition in which there is development of bulges or sacs in the colon or the large intestines. These bulges are termed as diverticula. An inflammation or infection of these diverticula is what that causes diverticular disease. As a result of the inflammation and infection, the affected individual experiences Upper Stomach Pain [3].

Generally, diverticula are formed in the lower intestines but in some cases the upper intestines get affected resulting in Upper Stomach Pain. This condition also affects the bowel function and the affected individual will also have constipation along with the pain. The frontline treatment for diverticular disease is basically dietary modification in the form of consumption of high fiber diet. However, in severe cases a surgery may have to be performed to treat the condition by removing the infected part of the intestine [2, 3].

While Upper Stomach Pain is mostly caused due to benign conditions, in certain scenarios an individual should consult with a physician. This is usually if the pain is constant for a period of 24 hours despite all modes of treatment. An individual should also consult with a physician if he or she has persistent vomiting, has fever, or the pain occurs after an injury or trauma to the abdominal area. Consultation with a physician is also necessary in cases where an immune compromised individual develops Upper Stomach Pain [2].

A visit to the emergency room is recommended in cases where an individual experiences severe pain in the right upper quadrant, the pain is severe in nature, there is yellowing of the skin, and the color of the stool is persistently pale [2].

In conclusion, Upper Stomach Pain is quite common in both children as well as adults. While most of the causes of this condition are benign and can be easily treated with over the counter medications and dietary modification, it can sometimes be caused due to certain medical conditions. Since the upper stomach houses the liver, gallbladder, and the pancreas, a dysfunction of these vital organs should be considered as a cause for Upper Stomach Pain and tests need to be conducted to come with a definite etiology and subsequent treatment [1, 2].

For minor Upper Stomach Pain, there is no treatment required but if the pain is caused due to certain bacterial or viral infections then medications need to be administered to control the infection and the pain. It is extremely vital for patients to observe the symptoms closely in cases of persistent Upper Stomach Pain and look for any abnormality which may point towards a more sinister etiology for their pain [1, 2].

It should be noted that Upper Stomach Pain caused due to gas and indigestion goes away without any treatment in a few hours. Therefore if the pain is not relieved by standard treatments and gets worse, it is better to go to the emergency room to get evaluated and treated for the underlying cause of Upper Stomach Pain [1, 2].


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 2, 2019

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