What is Epigastric pain?
Epigastric pain is pain that is experienced in the upper abdomen below the ribs.
Epigastric pain after eating
Epigastric pain in most cases comes into play during or immediately after eating. It is also experienced if you lay down immediately after eating. This is a common symptom of the gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is also a show of heartburn. This epigastric pain is normally associated with the upward movement of food back into the throat after eating. This may cause inflammation or epigastric burning pain.
Epigastric pain may also result from some conditions that lead to pain in other digestion organs like the gastric and the pancreas.
What causes Epigastric pain?
A number of conditions causes epigastric pain. Some of the common ones include:
- Drinking alcohol while eating
- Intake of spiced or greasy foods
Epigastric pain can also be caused by other digestive conditions like reflux. Reflux is a condition where food taken tends to move up the throat. This upward movement of the food may cause pain in the throat due to the acid in it.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is another cause of epigastric pain. This is disease that is common in young children who their muscular valve at the end of the food pipe, which acts to keep food in the tummy, has not developed properly. This will mean that when the child has eaten full, the food and acid will tend to come up the throat leading to pain.
Other causes of this condition are inflammatory diseases or cancers that affect the way the gallbladder operates. Complications that affect the way the stomach operates are likely also to trigger this problem.
You may also experience epigastric pain if you are suffering from cardiovascular problems like heart attacks or pain in the chest due to insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart.
Why is Epigastric pain during pregnancy common?
The epigastric pain can occur due to inflammation of the digestive organs. This Epigastric pain during pregnancy is common due to increased abdominal pressure. This is as a result of the enlargement of stomach area as the developing foetus grows.
Hormonal change is another thing that may lead to epigastric pain in pregnant women. When women are pregnant, there are many things that tend to change in their body. The normal hormones secretion processes change. This leads to change in the way things are done in the body. One of the processes that are affected is the digestive system that is slowed down. When this process is slowed, food digestion is impaired hence it may rise up the throat leading to pain.
How severe Epigastric pain is?
Epigastric pain is not a serious problem on its own. Epigastric pain is a problem that arises from other condition that affects the normal digestion process. These conditions include peptic ulcers and gallstones. These conditions normally occur after meals and in extreme cases this problem may be severe. Depending on the underlying causes, epigastric pain may be mild or severe. This condition may occur and disappear in a short period of time while in some cases it can have very severe pains that may be having a burning effect in the abdomen, chest and neck. Pancreatic epigastric pain radiate to back and the pain is severe.
Symptoms of Epigastric pain
The kinds of epigastric pain symptoms that one is likely to show when suffering from epigastric pain differ from one person to another depending on the cause. Some of the major ones are:
- Burning feeling in the abdomen and chest is the main sign of epigastric pain. This pain can be severe that it may interfere with your normal body functioning like sleep.
- Abdominal bloating – When you have epigastric pain, other body functions like digestion are impaired. This may lead to accumulation of gas in the stomach hence bloating. Patients may experience epigastric pain after eating.
- Constipation is another problem that is likely to accompany epigastric pain. Due to change in the way most processes of the body take place, stool is likely to be retained in the large intestine for long time. This leads to absorption of water leaving it dry and hard hence pain when going for the long coal.
- Diarrhoea – This is a result of the alternation in body functioning. There will be incomplete digestion of food that may lead to passing of wastes out in watery form.
- Vomiting can also be a sign of epigastric pain. When the food rises up the throat, it will trigger vomiting. This is because the valve that closes the food pipe is overpowered by the pressure of the stomach. This pressure may be due to overeating.
- In extreme conditions, epigastric pain may lead to heart complications like heart attack and chest pains due to lack of enough oxygen supply to the heart.
- Patients with stomach ulcers experience epigastric pain at night.
Although epigastric pain is not severe when it occurs, it is good you seek medical attention once you experience these epigastric pain symptoms. This is because some of the epigastric pain symptoms like heart attack may be severe and lead to bad effects on your health.
Other minor symptoms of Epigastric pain
Epigastric pain may be accompanied by other minor epigastric pain symptoms that most people tend to overlook. If you overlook them, you are likely to suffer more. Some of them include:
- Swelling of the abdomen that is not severe
- Burning effect on the chest
- Flatulence i.e. having too much gas in the stomach
- Palpitations and accumulated pressure in the chest
- Pain on the shoulder and arms.
- Respiratory problems that may lead to difficulties in breathing.
Common questions asked during diagnosis of Epigastric pain
To fully diagnose how severe the epigastric pain problem has affected you, you will be asked several question when you visit a medical centre. Some of them include:
- How long has the problem been with you?
- Do you have any heart problems?
- What kind of medicines are you taking?
- Do you have any other symptoms than the common ones?
- Where do you feel the pain?
- Is the pain constant or it keeps going up and down?
What are the Epigastric pain complications?
When it occurs alone, epigastric pain doesn’t have any severe effects. However when it is accompanied by other problems, it may lead to severe effects that may affect the way your body operates. It may lead to stress and frustration.
When you are experiencing epigastric pain you are likely to change on the way you eat. This is one thing that may see you lose weight.
This pain can also show symptoms that mimics heart symptoms. To avoid all these epigastric pain complications, you need to seek services of medical personnel.
Complications that may arise due to Epigastric pain
- Cancer of the oesophagus is one of such complications that may arise due to epigastric pain. This is as a result of regular occurrence of the condition. The acid that is found in the food material that rises up the oesophagus is likely to affect the oesophagus.
- Scarring and narrowing of the oesophagus is another long term effect of the epigastric pain. Due to re-occurrence of the movement of food material and acid into the oesophagus, the acid is likely to burn the oesophagus hence leaving scars.
- There is a likelihood of a heart attack if this pain is severe. This is because it leads to limited supply of oxygen to the heart.
- You will experience poor nutrition that may lead to slimming. When you have epigastric pain, you will not have appetite for food. This may lead you to lose weight hence become emaciated.
Epigastric pain treatment
The first step in the treatment of epigastric pain is to understand its triggers. It is good to know that this is a pain that is triggered by the kind of food you consume. Take your time to avoid intake of foods that may trigger it. It is good to know the amount of food you eat and when to eat.
The epigastric pain can also be caused by other factors that are not related to the kind of food you take. It may be triggered by the time and amount of food you consume. It is of good help to avoid eating a time that is close to bed time. You may also be eating too much food. It is good to eat small quantities of food many times a day.
Drinking a lot of water is another good thing you can do to reduce on the pain. It is good to avoid beer and other sugar containing drinks like wine and soda that will trigger the acid level to go high.
It is also good to use anti-acid drugs to curb epigastric pain symptoms. There are a number of tablets that have proved to reduce the pangs of epigastric pain. You can buy them from local pharmacies or from health centres.
Written by Anju Mathew
on July 14th, 2011. The article was last updated on August 29th, 2011