Gastric pain is quite common among people who eat irregular meals or those who lead very stressful lives. Gastric pain is the term used to describe any discomfort or pain felt in the upper abdomen.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with gastric pain include bloating, nausea, bleaching, and heartburn. When a patient has gastric or stomach pain, organic causes such as inflammation, ulcers, and cancer will be ruled out first.
Non-ulcer dyspepsia is the term given to gastric pain that is felt in the upper abdomen. The condition is also referred to as functional dyspepsia. This diagnosis is often given when all the possible organic causes of the symptoms have been ruled out.
Although most cases of non-ulcer dyspepsia do not have a clear cause, experts often link the condition with stress. Below are some of the possible organic causes of gastric pain:
- Gallstone Disease. While gallstones won’t always cause any symptoms or signs to manifest, gallbladder inflammation or bile duct blockage might cause severe stomach pain. CT and ultrasound scans are done to check for the presence of gallstones.
- Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). This chronic condition occurs when the bile or stomach acid flows back into the food pipe or the esophagus and irritates the lining. To rule out this condition, endoscopy may be done. The test involves using a thin tube with a tiny camera that is passed through the mouth. The device is used to examine the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus.
- Peptic ulcer disease or dyspepsia. This condition affects the duodenum wall or the stomach’s innermost layer. The duodenum wall is where the stomach connects with the small intestine.
- Cancer. Liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancer can also cause severe stomach pain. Endoscopy can be used to rule out cancer. During endoscopy, small samples of tissues are obtained to check if the cells are cancerous. Another possible examination that will be recommended to check for cancer is barium meal X-ray.
Though you may wish to wait for your symptoms of gastric pain to resolve on its own, you should check with your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- You pass out black stools
- You vomit persistently after eating
- You have unexplained weight loss
- You experience excruciating and severe pain in your upper stomach
In addition, you should check with a doctor if your symptoms are recent. In many cases, symptoms of gastric pain are long-standing and can often go back to many years. Hence, recent symptoms may point to other causes.
Stress is considered one of the primary causes of non-ulcer dyspepsia. As such, most doctors typically prescribe small doses of anxiety-relieving drugs and antidepressants to manage the symptoms.
In most cases, medications that can help minimize the production of stomach acid will also be prescribed. Generally, when it comes to medications that help reduce stomach acid, there are two types. The two types are:
- Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. This includes esomeprazole, pantoprazole, omeprazole, rabeprazole, and lansoprazole.
- Histamine-2 blockers or H2 blockers. This includes famotidine, ranitidine, cimetidine, and nizatidine.
While both types of medications work differently, their primary job is to minimize the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
If tests reveal that the gastric pain is caused by peptic ulcer, doctors will typically prescribe medications that will also reduce the acid in the stomach. If the ulcer is caused by H. Pylori infection, short-term triple therapy may be prescribed.
Short-term triple therapy consists of two antibiotics and one acid-reducing agent. In 90 percent of the cases, triple therapy can eradicate the bacteria successfully.