Digestive system

Epigastric pain: 10 Causes, 6 Symptoms,Treatment and 7 Complications

Epigastric pain? Yes, that is the pain you feel just slightly below the ribs. Though having it frequently may not raise too much concern. Initial and frequent epigastric pain isn’t the worst feeling as it is not a life-threatening condition unless under the serious and persistent situation and at that stage it is advisable to consult a doctor.

Should you have it once or twice, then it might not be a serious case but having a persistent one, you should seek the attention of a doctor.

Causes of Epigastric Pain:

epigastric pain
Epigastric pain
Image source: optidaily.com

There are other several causes of epigastric pain. It might be associated with other illness as one illness can have the same cause. Epigastric pain is, however, a sign of a stomach upset. Some of the very well pronounced causes of an epigastric pain are:

  • Indigestion.
  • Acid reflux.
  • Lactose intolerance.
  • Alcohol.
  • Gastritis.
  • Peptic ulcer.
  • A hiatal hernia.
  • Overfeed.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Gallbladder disorder.

Overfeeding doesn’t seem like the right term to be used as the stomach is very flexible and stretches to accommodate more food. However, when we eat more food to an extend that the flexible capacity of our stomach is overridden we are said to have overfed and thus an epigastric pain.


This is a situation in our bodies when the stomach can’t adaptively digest chewed food. It causes a stomach upset and epigastric pain. Burping bloats in the abdomen, and feeling nauseated are all signals to indigestion in the stomach.


During pregnancy, the zygote grows into an embryo and finally a fetus, and during this stages of growth, the womb expands to accommodate the growing fetus. This causes a stretch and exerts pressure on other organs of the body around the womb. It also brings about hormonal changes. All this can cause pain in the epigastric region.

Gallbladder disorders:

Malfunctions occur in all parts of the body. For the gallbladder; gallstones, cholecystitis, cholestasis and gallbladder cancer are the most common. Such disorders cause epigastric pain. Its symptoms are clay-coloured faeces, appetite loss, bloating and gases, jaundice and intense epigastric pain.

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Alcohol in nature is not a cause of epigastric pain, but when they are taken in excess and over long periods of time, they destroy the lining of the small intestines and causes inflammation. This inflammation causes epigastric pain.

Peptic ulcer:

A peptic ulcer is a type of ulcer that causes a burning sensation in the stomach lining after it has been destroyed by an infection or with the taking of too much medication and even other drugs like alcohol. Epigastric pain is a symptom of a peptic ulcer.

Acid reflux:

Heartburn, ongoing cough, indigestion, abnormal acid taste in mouth, and throat sores are all symptoms of acid reflux. Well, acid reflux is a condition where acid meant for functioning in the stomach washes or redraws back to oesophagus tract causing epigastric pain.

Lactose intolerance:

Milk, cheese and other dairy products contain sugars called lactose. Enzymes known as lactase breaks down this sugars into its simplex form for absorption. When the level of enzyme lactase drops, lactose level rises. The body functioning would reject this lactose in a process known as lactose intolerance causing epigastric pain.


This is a chronic condition. It happens as a result of a bacterial infection to the stomach lining. It is an immune disorder. Black faeces, vomiting and nausea, are common symptoms of gastritis.

Hiatal hernia:

When you breathe in and out, the diaphragm pulls upwards and outwards, inwards and downwards respectively. During this process, the stomach moves alongside the diaphragm through a process known as hiatus hence epigastric pain on the upper part of the stomach due to pressures on the surrounding organs.

Symptoms associated with Epigastric pain:

Acute cases of epigastric pain can be extreme and require doctor’s attention. However, this can be noted at an early stage by observing its symptoms:

  • Vomiting.
  • Coughing blood,
  • Heartburns.
  • Coloured stool.
  • Blood dyed stool.
  • Extreme diarrhoea.
  • Fever.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Fatigues.

You may throw up immediately after eating.


Blood from the infected stomach through hiatus may find its way up the throat and when one coughs you may find yourself coughing blood stained mucus.


When you eat certain diets, you may feel a burning sensation in your stomach.

Coloured stool:

The process of food digestion may continue even with the stomach upsets but can carry along blood from the infected stomach wall. This blood dyes the stool.

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Extreme diarrhoea:

Diarrhoea can be from a case where the indigested food is gotten rid of from the body. This condition when extreme can be an indication that the stomach is infected and doesn’t function well to digest the food contents we have taken. This also causes epigastric abdominal pain.


With continuous stomach infection and poor absorption of food in the stomach, you may find yourself feeling tired especially after having taken your meals.


Diagnosing of epigastric pain is done by experienced specialists. This is necessary to distinguish the symptoms of the disease as they have shared symptoms with other diseases. When this is done, the doctors can prescribe the right drugs depending on your ailment.

Ways through which these diseases are diagnosed include imaging tests; x-rays and ultrasounds, blood tests, cardiac tests, and urine tests to diagnose infections and bladder disorders.


Treatment to epigastric pain is well elaborated concerning the cause of the ailment. Home treatment starts with regulating the amount of food to eat for a case of overfeeding.

Over the counter(OTC) drugs are also used to treat some cases of epigastric pain such as heartburns can be cured by an antacid tablet that neutralizes the acidity of the stomach and healing the epigastric pain.


Serious cases of untreated epigastric pain can lead to the undesired stage that it becomes acute and causes prolong paralysis to the stomach and restriction of diets.

Untreated cases of epigastric pain can lead to the following complications: extreme pain in the stomach, stomach infections such as ulcer and even stomach cancer, excessive bleeding, weight loss, scarring and narrowing of the oesophagus, poor nutrition, bad smell, heart attacks, and infections.

Bad smell:

When the stomach walls that are responsible for absorption of food are destroyed, food may not be processed well and end up emitting a bad smell from the mouth especially when one belches.


If the stomach is infected and not treated on time, the infections may go further to the small intestines and large intestines.

Excessive bleedings:

The destruction of the stomach walls results in loss of blood, and when this goes on, blood is noted in the stool, and further infections lead to losing a lot of blood.

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Poor nutrition:

Causes of epigastric pain include lactose intolerance in the body. This means that the body rejects dairy products which are a good source of proteins. This would end up forcing the individual to stick to other diets even if it means avoiding proteins leading to malnutrition.

Epigastric pain treatment includes diet restriction that cancels out other important food contents to our body especially proteins.

Weight loss:

Diet restrictions on proteins and the amount of food one eats sums up to the rate at which we gain, lose and maintain our body weights. With epigastric pain treatment, the quantity of food eaten is regulated to cure epigastric pain.

Food contents like proteins which are good for bodybuilding end up in denial or is eaten under strict restrictions. This leads to dietary stress- that is nutrition problems due to a limited food group to choose from.

Stomach cancer:

Over prolonged illness of epigastric pain, the stomach walls might eventually wear out and pave the way to stomach cancer. Serious infections in the stomach causes tear in the body, and too many proteins are used to heal the stomach wounds.

Pain and discomforts:

Epigastric pain when not treated at an early stage can cause too many discomforts, pain and absenteeism. Bad smell resulting from epigastric pain can also diminish one’s self-esteem and fear to stand out and offer his or her views on a matter affecting them.

Epigastric discomfort is easy to manage at its early stages. However, in its extreme cases it’s a disaster, and therefore when you are suffering from one or two case symptoms of epigastric pain, you should seek the advice of a doctor before the infections get extreme.

If in doubt, you should try out online doctors and google help to help dig out information about stomach infections before going for tests.

This would help you a lot as it guides you on how to try diet restrictions before going to the doctor and it also offers a list of over the counter drugs you can buy and help relieve the pain to offer you temporary solutions even though others can be permanent.

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/epigastric-pain
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320317.php
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/abdominal-pain/basics/definition/sym-20050728

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