What Causes Upper Abdominal Pain?

Upper abdominal pain can have various causes, ranging from relatively benign conditions to more serious medical issues. The location and nature of the pain, along with other associated symptoms, can help determine the underlying cause. Here are some common causes of upper abdominal pain:

  • Indigestion or Heartburn: Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can lead to a burning sensation or discomfort in the upper abdomen, often after eating.
  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining can result in upper abdominal pain, often accompanied by nausea, bloating, and a feeling of fullness.
  • Peptic Ulcers: Sores in the lining of the stomach or small intestine can cause a gnawing or burning pain in the upper abdomen. This pain can be aggravated by eating.
  • Gallstones: Gallstones can block the bile duct and lead to sharp, intense pain in the upper right abdomen, often radiating to the back or shoulder.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas can cause upper abdominal pain that may be severe and radiate to the back. It is often associated with nausea and vomiting.
  • Gastroenteritis: A viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and intestines can cause upper abdominal pain, along with diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
  • Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, causing upper abdominal discomfort and reflux symptoms.
  • Constipation: Severe constipation can lead to upper abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort.
  • Muscle Strain: Overexertion or injury to the abdominal muscles can result in localized pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Liver Conditions: Conditions like hepatitis or liver inflammation can cause upper abdominal pain, typically in the right upper quadrant.
  • Kidney Stones: Kidney stones can sometimes cause referred pain to the upper abdomen or back, along with symptoms like hematuria (blood in the urine) and pain radiating to the groin.
  • Cardiac Issues: In some cases, heart problems such as angina or a heart attack can present with upper abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in women.
  • Pneumonia: In some instances, lower lung infections can cause referred pain to the upper abdomen.

It’s important to note that if you or someone you know experiences severe or persistent upper abdominal pain, especially if it’s accompanied by symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting, seek immediate medical attention, as it could be a sign of a serious condition. For less severe cases of upper abdominal pain, a healthcare professional should evaluate the symptoms to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment or management.