HEARTBURN & GALLSTONES

Can Upper Abdominal Pain Be Caused by Heartburn and other Diseases?

The short answer is yes, absolutely!

The upper abdominal part of your body is separated into three parts. In the right upper abdominal, you have your liver, gallbladder, and right kidney as well as a part of the small intestine. In the center upper abdominal, you have your stomach, liver, pancreas, adrenal glands, and spleen. In your left upper abdominal, you have the other part of your spleen, the left kidney, and an overlapping part of the pancreas. Notice something all these areas have in common? They are all involved in the immediate digestion of food and liquids.

So when you experience upper abdominal pain that was not caused by some type of trauma from outside the body, then the true cause is probably related to digestion. Heartburn and acid reflux are conditions that result in stomach acid being pushed up out of the stomach. That acid coming into contact with the lower esophagus is what causes that harsh upper abdominal pain and discomfort.


The good news is that heartburn and upper abdominal pain will generally pass, and it is not going to be life-threatening. The bad news is that some people will have bouts of heartburn and acid reflux that can last weeks -- making for some severe discomfort over time. If your heartburn has changed from a once-in-a-blue-moon thing to something constant, causing you chronic abdominal pain that is affecting your work and social life, then it is time to talk to a healthcare professional.

The gallbladder is in the right upper abdomen which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort as well. 30% of Americans have gallstones. The US population in 2020 is 329.5 million. Which means almost 99 million US Americans have gallstones! Now, its does not mean that because you have gallstones that you need surgery.

The gallbladder is a tiny organ that is located under your liver on the right side. This small organ works to collect and store bile, which is a fluid that allows your small intestine to break up and break down fatty foods to aid in digestion. Unfortunately, the gallbladder does not always work in your favor as it can form things called gallstones which block the organ's natural flow of bile from the liver to the stomach and works to irritate the gallbladder, which in turn will irritate you. When this happens, especially if it becomes a frequent occurrence, your doctor may recommend you for gallbladder removal through laparoscopic or minimally invasive techniques.

It is important to always talk with your doctor whenever you are feeling chronic pain or have unusual, persistent symptoms. Some general signs that your pain and problematic symptoms are related to a gallbladder problem include:

●     Constant indigestion following meals, may take the form of heavy bloating, gas, heartburn, or all three.

●     A very sharp pain in your belly, especially after eating fried or otherwise fatty foods.

●     Constant nausea and vomiting in addition to that shape of pain.

●     A persistent fever that cannot be attributed to anything else.

●     A yellowing of your skin or even the yellowing of your eyes where they should be white (this symptom is also generally referred to as jaundice).

If you are experiencing any or all of the above symptoms, then gallbladder removal may be the best course to relieve you of the pain and discomfort. The good news is while yes, this does mean the permanent removal of an organ in your body, you do not need a gallbladder to survive. This is only a storage organ but the real important thing is to have a functioning liver that can produce the bile and send that bile straight to the small intestines where it is needed.

 The pancreas, the spleen and the liver are also in the upper abdomen. When something is going on with these internal organs, people can have upper abdominal pain as well.

Come and see me for a surgical consultation if you are experiencing upper abdominal pain which may or not be associated with the symptoms that I have described above.

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