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Severe Upper Abdominal Pain

Severe upper abdominal pain may arise in any organ present in the midsection of your abdominal cavity. The following article will discuss some of the possible causes.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
'Mummy, I have a tummy ache!' This is one of the most common excuses given to mothers by kids who want to skip school. However, in adults severe abdominal pain may indicate a minor or a major health issue. Abdominal pain does not always mean pain in the stomach. It may arise in the abdominal wall tissues surrounding the abdominal cavity. Abdominal pain may either be acute or chronic and may be mild to severe in intensity. The pain is not always focused in one part of the abdominal cavity and may originate in the upper, central or lower quadrant.
Causes
There are many causes of abdominal pain and symptoms of each indicate the area where the discomfort originates. The upper abdominal pain is usually felt just below the rib cage and above the belly button. Some of the possible causes of severe upper abdominal pain include:
Appendicitis
The condition where the appendix is filled with pus and gets inflamed is called appendicitis. The pain may originate in the upper abdomen and may shift from the navel to the lower right abdomen. If the pain increases in intensity over 12 to 18 hours, it is suspected to be appendicitis. The doctor may suggest surgery to treat this severe abdominal pain.
Gallstones
The hard crystallized stones of the digestive fluid that block the gallbladder are called gallstones. These gallstones can be as small as a tiny grain of sand and may be as large as a tennis ball. One of the most common symptoms of gallstones is sudden, severe upper abdominal pain on the right side. This pain intensifies from the center of the abdomen just below the breastbone. It may also lead to pain in the back between shoulder blades and the right shoulder.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
This chronic digestive disease occurs when the bile or stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This causes irritation of the esophagus and heartburn. Chest pain along with upper abdomen pain, dry cough, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, etc. are some of the symptoms of GERD.
Pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. This condition causes severe pain in the upper abdomen. This pain radiates to the back. It is also one of the causes of stomach pain after eating. Nausea, vomiting, indigestion, oily and smelly stools are some of the other symptoms of pancreatitis.
Peptic Ulcer
Ulcer that develops on the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach and intestines is called peptic ulcer. The abdominal pain felt from the breastbone up to the navel may indicate peptic ulcer. The pain worsens when the stomach is empty, especially at night. In severe cases, one may suffer from nausea, vomiting blood (sometimes), dark blood in stools, loss of appetite, etc.
Intestinal Obstruction
Any blockage in the small intestines or colons gives rise to the intestinal obstruction. This obstruction can be due to abdominal tissue adhesion, hernias or tumors. The symptoms include cramps in the upper abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal distention, etc.
Angina
The chest pain and pressure on the chest due to reduction in blood flow to the heart muscles is called Angina. Women tend to suffer some different type of symptoms as compared to the classic angina symptoms. They suffer from sharp, stabbing and pulsating pain in the chest. They also suffer from upper abdominal pain, shortness of breath and nausea. Thus, women suffering from these symptoms along with sharp pain in chest should get their heart health examined by a medical expert.
Heart Attack
Those who are suffering from heart attack, experience pressure or squeezing pain in the center of their chest. Along with the chest pain, they feel the pain radiating from the chest to their shoulder, arms, back and jaw. They seem to complain of severe pain, nausea and vomiting. The squeezing chest pain radiating towards the shoulders and jaws due to a heart attack can cause abdominal pain.
Other causes include cholangitis, cholecystitis, duodenitis, hepatitis, pericarditis, pyloric stenosis (in infants), etc. One should get themselves examined by a doctor, if the pain does not subside within 48 hours. Do not take severe abdominal pain lightly as it may be a sign that your body requires immediate medical attention.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.