When you start feeling pain in the middle of the upper abdomen, more specifically between the ribs and the bellybutton, it means that you are dealing with epigastric pain. The severity of this pain can differ from person to person. It can be mild or severe. If untreated, it may happen that the pain may spread to another part of the body. In the majority of cases, the epigastric pain is a sign of a serious health problem that you need to treat as soon as possible.
What causes epigastric pain?
The epigastric pain may be caused by the following situations:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease also known as GERD – it is considered the most common cause of epigastric pain. GERD causes a burning sensation that you will feel behind the sternum. When your gastric acids are regurgitated back into your esophagus it means that you are developing GERD.
- Heartburn – you feel a burning sensation because of the high amount of gastric acid secretions that are refluxed back into the esophagus.
- Peptic ulcer disease: Due to an ulcer formation in the stomach, pain may radiate up to the epigastric area. These ulcers usually appear as a result of an H. Pylori infection.
- Gastritis – also known as an inflammation of the stomach lining which leads to epigastric pain. You may experience also weight loss and persistent nausea and vomiting.
- Duodenal ulcer: it is linked to an H. Pylori infection.
- Carcinoma of the stomach: it is usually accompanied by weight loss.
- Pancreatitis: A common cause of epigastric pain that may even radiate to other parts of the body.
- Gastroenteritis: An inflammatory condition of the stomach and intestines that leads to persistent epigastric pain. If you have gastroenteritis, you have persistent nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Hepatitis: Yellowish discoloration of the skin and sclera, weakness, and fever are common signs of the chronic cases.
What is also very important to know is that symptoms that can co-exist with epigastric pain.
What signs and symptoms may I have ?
Signs and symptoms will depend on what is causing your pain. The most common signs and symptoms include the following:
- Nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite, weight loss, feeling of fullness as you start to eat
- Movement relieves the pain or makes it worse, or only certain positions are comfortable
- Pain when you eat, or pain that is relieved when you eat or have a bowel movement
- Sore throat or a hoarse voice
It may be that a severe cardiac condition may also mimic epigastric pain. This is why it is important to seek emergency medical help if you believe this to be the case. Epigastric pain in this scenario may have symptoms as: chest tightness, palpitations, and shortness of breath, with radiating pain the left arm.
How to diagnose and treat epigastric pain
As soon as you experience one of the symptoms above, you should go to your doctor immediately. The first thing that your healthcare provider will check is your abdomen. He will check if it is tender or rigid. Your healthcare provider will feel your abdomen to see if it is tender or rigid. He may change or stop any medicine you are taking that is causing your pain. Your pain may go away without treatment, or you may need any of the following:
- Medicines may be given to treat pain or stop vomiting. You may also need medicines to reduce or control stomach acid, or treat an infection.
- Blood or urine tests may show problems such as infection or inflammation. The tests may also show how well your liver is working.
- An x-ray is used to check your kidneys, bladder, and ureters.
- An ultrasound is used to check your gallbladder for stones or other blockage.
- A bowel movement sample may be tested for blood.
- Cardiac testing: cardiac biomarkers, a stress test, and an EEG to help identify if the heart is the cause of epigastric pain.
In case your symptoms are mild, your doctor might recommend you one of the following treatments:
- Antacids: will help reduce excessive production of stomach acid.
- H2 blockers prevent the formation of excessive stomach acid.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Used to help relieve pain as well as reduce inflammation.
Epigastric pain home remedies
When you are experiencing mild intermittent pain, you can also try to treat it at home using the following methods:
- Aloe Vera juice: If you want to get the full benefit, you should not dilute it in any other liquids.
- Ginger tea: helps neutralize the stomach acid and reduce inflamed or irritated tissue in the digestive tract.
- Baking soda: One teaspoon of baking soda diluted in warm water can help neutralize the acidic nature of your stomach. If the problem persists after a few days, try two teaspoons.
- Chamomile tea: helps fight the symptoms of epigastric pain by soothing the stomach. This tea is also used to relieve heartburn.
- Yogurt: Known for easing indigestion and pain caused by digestive problems. It does this by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
- Burnt toast: Used to help detoxify the stomach.
- Peppermint tea: it is not recommended in cases of GERD, as it may trigger acid reflux.
How can I manage my symptoms?
- Keep a record of your symptoms. It is important to know how the pain started, how severe the pain was and how long it lasted. You will be able to control better your symptoms like this.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish.
- Drink liquids as directed. Your doctor should tell you how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Do not have drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine.
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following signs:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Trouble breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
- You have severe pain that radiates to your jaw or back.