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What Causes an Upper Stomach Ache?

An illustration of a human stomach.
There are various reasons why stomach aches occur.
Several abdominal organs, including the pancreas, gallbladder, and liver.
Imaging tests for upper stomach problems may require patients to drink a contrast dye made of barium sulfate.
Acid reflux disease is a common cause of an upper stomach ache.
Article Details
  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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Stomach pain can be a cause for great distress for many people. There can be a variety of causes, depending upon the exact location of the pain. An upper stomach ache may indicate medical issues such as an inflammation of the pancreas or gallbladder. Other common causes of an upper stomach ache include acid reflux disease, hepatitis, and ulcers. Treatment is directed at finding the exact cause of the upper stomach ache and treating the originating condition as necessary.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for the production and release of hormones such as insulin and glucagon and aiding in the digestive process. Typical symptoms include an upper stomach ache, nausea, and fever. Treatment typically involves a few days at the hospital, as well as receiving fluids and medications through an IV, a tube inserted into a vein. In more severe cases, a tube may have to be inserted into the nose that moves into the stomach for tube feedings.

Gallbladder problems such as gallstones may lead to an upper stomach ache, particularly on the right side. Gallbladder pain tends to radiate to the chest, right shoulder, or back areas. Gallbladder issues can often lead to an emergency situation requiring immediate removal of the gallbladder. For this reason, any potential gallbladder issues should be reported to a doctor right away.

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An upper stomach ache that is predominately felt on the left side may be a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome. An intestinal infection or emotional stress can sometimes worsen the symptoms of this condition. The stomach pain is often accompanied by depression, nausea, and vomiting. Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet can often reduce the symptoms from this condition.

If a chronic upper stomach ache is present along with other symptoms such as a yellow tint to the eyes and skin or dark urine, a doctor should be consulted immediately. Thee are potential symptoms of a medical condition known as viral hepatitis. This condition causes swelling and inflammation of the liver and is a medical emergency.

Acid reflux disease commonly causes an upper stomach ache. This condition may also cause chest pain or a sour taste in the mouth and is often worse after eating. If over-the-counter antacids or acid reducers do not provide adequate relief, a doctor should be consulted so that further testing can be performed and an accurate diagnosis obtained.

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Discuss this Article

fify
Post 3

I had upper stomach pain and rib cage pain for days on end. My ribs were very sore, and hurt even if I touched them. I was eventually diagnosed with a viral infection. I got through it with rest.

serenesurface
Post 2

@turkay1-- You need to see a doctor because you can't possibly diagnose yourself over the internet. You're just going to get more worried.

There are so many possible upper stomach pain causes. Do you have any other symptoms like nausea or digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea? These could point to a food intolerance or an immune system disorder that affects the intestines.

Does the pain resonate to your ribs or is it more prominent on one side? These symptoms may point to issues with the pancreas, liver or gallbladder.

Or if the pain is concentrated in the stomach, it could be ulcers. You can't know whether you have one without an x-ray or an endoscopy.

All of these factors have to be considered and your doctor is the best one to make sense of your symptoms.

candyquilt
Post 1

I have a severe upper abdominal pain, in my upper stomach. It comes on suddenly and can last for hours. I've been getting it almost everyday for the past several weeks. First I thought that it might be a stomach ulcer, but I don't have acid reflux, just pain. I also tried several different anti-acids and they did nothing.

Has anyone else experienced something like this? What were you diagnosed with?

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