What is causing my upper abdominal pain?

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Written By MartinCorbett

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When should you seek immediate medical attention?

  • If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
  • Severe pain or extreme pressure
  • Fièvre
  • You feel nauseating or vomiting that doesn’t stop
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin.
  • Abdominal sweating
  • You will feel extreme tenderness when you touch your abdomen

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Bloody stool

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should immediately have someone drive you to an emergency room or urgent care. These symptoms could be an indication of a serious condition that requires immediate attention.

It’s what is causing it?


Gallstones are solid deposits in the bile and digestive fluid of your gallbladder. This four-inch-long organ is located below your liver. They are the leading cause of pain in the right side and upper abdomen.

Gallstones can cause symptoms but not always. If gallstones block the duct they can cause upper abdominal pain.

  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • nausea or vomiting
  • Back pain between your shoulder blades
  • A sudden, intense pain below your breastbone in the middle section of your abdomen.

Gallstone pain can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Although your doctor may recommend medication to dissolve gallstones it may take several months or even years for the treatment to be effective. The doctor may recommend that you have your gallbladder removed. This is not necessary and will not affect your ability to eat.


Hepatitis can be a liver infection that causes pain on the right side or upper abdomen. There are three types:

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection that can be spread by infected food and water or contact with infected persons or objects.

Hepatitis B is a serious infection of the liver that can lead to liver failure, cancer or permanent scarring (cirrhosis).

Hepatitis C is a chronic viral infection that can spread through infected blood. It can cause liver inflammation and liver damage.

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You may also experience the following symptoms of hepatitis:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Fièvre
  • poor appetite
  • Dark-colored urine
  • joint pain
  • jaundice
  • itchy skin
  • appetite loss

Liver abscess

A liver abscess can be described as a pus-filled cyst in the liver. It causes pain on the right side, upper abdomen. A variety of bacteria can cause an abscess. You may also get an abscess from liver damage or blood infections.

You may also notice the following symptoms in a liver abscess:

  • Pain in your lower right side of your chest
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Dark-colored urine
  • appetite loss
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sudden weight loss
  • jaundice
  • Night sweats, fever, and chills
  • Weakness


Gastroesophageal acid reflux disease (GERD), is acid reflux that can irritate the lining of your esophageal lining. GERD can cause heartburn. This is when acid reflux causes your stomach to move up into your chest. You may feel pain in the upper abdomen.

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Other signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • chest pain
  • Problems swallowing
  • Backflow of food and sour liquid
  • Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
  • Acid reflux at night can also be caused by:
  • Chronic cough
  • New or worsening symptoms of asthma
  • Sleep problems
  • laryngitis

Hiatal hernia

Hiatal hernia is when your stomach protrudes through the large muscle that divides your diaphragm from your abdomen. Because your stomach is the largest part of your body, you will feel the most pain in the left side.

Although a small hiatal problem is not usually symptomatic, a large hiatal problem can lead to a host of problems, such as:

  • Heartburn
  • acid reflux
  • Problems swallowing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Backflow of liquids or food into your mouth
  • You can vomit blood
  • Black stools


Gastritis refers to inflammation of the stomach lining. It is often caused by a bacterial disease. Gastritis can also be caused by excessive drinking or regular use of pain relievers. Gastritis can cause pain in the upper abdomen and can be worsened by eating.

Gastritis can also be manifested by:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • Feeling full after eating

Peptic ulcer

Peptic ulcers are open sores that occur on the stomach’s lining (gastric) or in the upper portion of your small intestine (duodenal). These can be caused by a bacterial or long-term aspirin use and other pain relievers. Burning stomach pain can be caused by peptic ulcers. This will usually occur on your left side.

You may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of fullness, bloating or burping
  • Intolerance to fatty foods
  • Heartburn
  • nausea


Gastroparesis refers to a condition that prevents or slows down the normal spontaneous movement in your stomach muscles. This can interfere with digestion. Certain medications can cause gastroparesis, including opioid painkillers, antidepressants, allergy medication, and drugs that raise blood pressure. Gastroparesis can be felt on the left side or stomach.

You may also experience the following symptoms:

  • vomiting, sometimes undigested food
  • nausea
  • acid reflux
  • Bloating
  • After eating just a few bites, you will feel full.
  • Changes in blood sugar levels
  • appetite loss
  • malnutrition
  • Unexpected weight loss

Functional Dyspepsia

Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion, is usually caused by something you ate/drank. Functional dyspepsia, however, is indigestion that has no apparent cause. Indigestion can cause burning sensations on one or both sides.

Functional dyspepsia may also manifest as:

  • Feeling full after eating a few bites
  • uncomfortable fullness
  • Bloating
  • nausea

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When should you see a doctor?

You can usually treat mild cases of abdominal discomfort at home. Applying an ice pack to the affected area can ease muscle strain symptoms. Remember that aspirin and ibuprofen can cause stomach irritation which can worsen abdominal pain.

If your pain in the upper abdomen lasts more than a few days or is severe, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor will be able to determine whether your pain is normal or serious and can also diagnose the root cause of the problem and provide a treatment plan.