Epigastric pain is localized pain in abdomen that occurs in upper middle part of abdomen, just below the ribs. Epigastrium is one of the 9 regions of abdomen. It is comprised of number of abdominal organs such as stomach, pancreas, dueodenum, a part of left side of liver, abdominal muscles and tissues. Any problem in these organs can cause pain in epigastrium.
Pain can be mild or severe depending on the underlying cause and the organ affected. Sometimes pain may radiate to this area from organs other than those situated in epigastric area.The characteristic of pain and the time of its occurrence are very important for diagnosis of a particular condition. Pain may have relation with meals, medication, alcohol etc.
Epigastric pain in majority of cases can be treated with medications. Home remedies and lifestyle changes also help in alleviating pain and other problems associated with epigastirum.
Possible Causes Of Epigastric Pain
Epigastric pain can develop due to many reasons. Some of which are as minor as eating spicy food to more serious such as pancreatic cancer. Diagnosis of epigastric pain is a challenging task for a physician because there are many underlying causes and each of them has to be ruled out before pin pointing on one probable cause.Some common causes can give rise to pain in epigastrium.
- Heart burn caused after eating spicy and oily food.
- Excessive intake of alcohol and smoking.
- Gastroesophgeal reflux (GERD): It is a condition in which the gastric content along with acid regurgitates in the lower part of esophagus. It leads to irritation and pain in lower part of esophagus.
- Gastritis: Inflammation in the stomach lining caused due to increased secretion of stomach acid. Many factors determine secretion of stomach acid. H. pylori infection in stomach can produce gastritis. Other factors such as use of anti inflammatory medicines, stress etc can also increase acid content in stomach.
- Pregnancy: Many women suffer from epigastric discomfort during pregnancy due to growing uterus.
- Peptic ulcer: It is one of the most common causes of epigastric pain. Increased acid secretion and H. pylori infection are two important causes for peptic ulcer. Ulcer can occur in first part of duodenum.
- Stomach cancer: Along with pain, patient may also have bloody vomiting, loss of weight, etc.
- Side effects of NSAID and steroid medicines.
- Pancreatitis: Inflammation of pancreas can cause severe pain in epigastric region.
- Pancreatic cancer.
- Hepatitis: Pain in epigastrium is common in the initial stage of viral hepatitis.
- Gallstones and inflammation of gallbladder.
Sometimes it can be a referred pain from some other organ not present in epigastrium. For example angina pain due to narrowing and spasm of the coronary blood vessel. Cancer of esophagus, hiatus hernia, aneurysm of abdominal aorta, appendicitis etc can rarely cause pain in epigastrium.
Signs And Symptoms Of Epigastric Pain
Epigastric pain is in fact one of the symptoms of many diseases. Following symptoms are commonly associated with epigastric pain.
- Nausea and vomiting. Sometimes vomiting of blood.
- Belching frequently
- Bloating of abdomen
- Reduced appetite
- Loss of weight
- Feeling of tightness in chest.
- Pain radiating to middle part of back.
In case if patient experiences pain in epigastrium along with tightness in chest and breathing difficulty with radiating pain in arm and hands, than patient should seek immediate medical attention to rule out coronary heart disease.
Treatment Options For Epigastric Pain
Epigastric pain is caused due to many diseases and conditions. Therefore treatment may vary according to the underlying condition. However, some of the common treatment measures are same in all cases of epigastric pain.
Epigastric pain usually is relieved after a period of time with medication and lifestyle changes. Home remedies are also effective in reducing epigastric pain.
- H2 receptor blocking agents are beneficial to alleviate epigastric pain.
- Antacids are also effective in dealing with heartburn and acidity.
- If you are taking anti-inflammatory steroid or NSAID medicine, stop it immediately as this may be the cause for epigastric pain. Consult your doctor and then take the medicine.
- Stop alcohol and cigarette smoking.
- Eat bland diet which consists of non oily and non spicy food.
- Reduce stress as it is one of the most common factors to produce peptic ulcer and gastritis in modern days. Meditation, yoga, is useful for relieving stress.
- Eat food at frequent intervals instead of keeping a large gap between two meals.
- Honey has natural anti inflammatory properties. Mix one teaspoon of honey in one glass of water. Mix it and drink daily in morning to alleviate epigastric pain.
- Bananas contain certain substance which increases production of mucus in the stomach. As a result mucus protects the harmful effect of acid on the inner lining of stomach. The high fiber content is also beneficial in alleviating pain caused due to gastritis.
- A mixture of mint leaves, Indian gooseberry juice, soothes epigastric pain.