Burning pain in the abdomen may have several causes, including a peptic ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux disease. However, people feel pain differently, and the symptoms may indicate a more severe condition. Therefore, a person must consult a healthcare professional for proper assessment and treatment.

The abdomen extends from below a person’s chest to the groin. It contains many different organs, including the stomach, pancreas, and gastrointestinal system.

A burning sensation may be present in the upper abdomen and esophagus due to acid reflux or when someone urinates due to kidney stones or an infection. Other conditions may also cause a burning pain at different times, such as while eating or having sex.

This article explores burning pain in the abdomen, its possible causes, symptoms, and treatments. It also explains when to contact a doctor.

Burning hot coats, representing a burning pain in the abdomen.Share on Pinterest
Faba-Photograhpy/Getty Images

GERD occurs when the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus, the tube that carries liquids and food from the mouth to the stomach.

There may be several causes of GERD, including impaired function of the esophageal sphincter or a hiatal hernia.

The condition is common, affecting up to 27.8% or more people in the United States.

Symptoms

One of the typical symptoms of GERD is heartburn. This causes a burning sensation that may radiate into the neck to the abdomen. GERD also causes regurgitation of stomach acid — acid reflux.

Other symptoms include:

Treatment

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommends the following lifestyle modifications for managing GERD:

However, experts note that diet modification is controversial, and guidelines suggest doctors do not routinely recommend this.

Doctors may prescribe medication to people who do not respond to lifestyle modifications. This may include:

Doctors may recommend surgery for severe cases of GERD that do not respond to the above treatments.

Peptic ulcers are sores on the lining of the stomach or duodenum. People sometimes call them duodenal ulcers or peptic ulcer disease. Helicobacter pylori bacteria are the most common cause of peptic ulcers, which affect up to 6% of people in the U.S.

Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, may also cause ulcers to develop. Older adults and those who smoke are more at risk.

Symptoms

The NIDDK advises that the most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is abdominal pain that may be burning or dull. The pain may come and go or worsen at night or when the stomach is empty or full. Other common symptoms include:

However, the NIDDK notes some people have no symptoms until an ulcer leads to complications, such as bleeding or a blockage in the stomach.

Treatment

Doctors look at the cause of a peptic ulcer and may treat it with medications. Treatments may include:

Doctors may suggest a gastrointestinal tract endoscopy to obtain a biopsy or, in rare cases, surgery to treat peptic ulcers that do not heal.

Chronic pancreatitis is when inflammation permanently damages the pancreas and stops it from working correctly. The pancreas is a small organ behind the stomach that helps people digest food.

The condition is different from acute pancreatitis, which is a short-term condition.

Symptoms

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), chronic pancreatitis causes a burning or shooting pain in the abdomen that comes and goes but may last for hours or days.

Depending on how long the condition has lasted, people may experience the following symptoms:

With advanced disease, people may also experience jaundice or symptoms of diabetes. If cysts develop as a complication, someone may have bloating, indigestion, or dull tummy pain.

Treatment

The damage to the pancreas is permanent, but healthcare professionals can help a person manage symptoms. Doctors may advise:

  • stopping drinking alcohol
  • quitting smoking
  • pain-relieving medication
  • surgery

Sometimes, people may feel a burning sensation in the lower abdominal or genital area when they urinate. This may be as a result of kidney stones or a urinary tract infection (UTI) such as cystitis.

Endometriosis can cause pain in the abdomen, and people may experience a burning pain during or after sex.

There may be several reasons someone can have burning pain in the abdomen, and a healthcare professional needs to assess symptoms to diagnose the cause.

People may feel or describe pain differently, so a healthcare professional must assess and diagnose conditions using a person’s symptoms and clinical investigations.

Someone with abdominal pain or burning sensations must discuss these symptoms with a healthcare professional.

Acute abdominal pain can also indicate severe conditions such as appendicitis, inflammatory bowel disease complications, or cancer.

A person should attend the emergency room if they experience sudden onset, severe abdominal pain.

Burning pain in the abdomen may be due to a peptic ulcer or GERD. Chronic pancreatitis also causes long-term abdominal symptoms, including burning pain.

Someone may feel burning pain lower in the abdomen or when urinating due to kidney stones or a UTI. Additionally, endometriosis or other gynecological conditions may cause burning pain.

A person must discuss their symptoms with a doctor, who may want to perform tests. Depending on the cause of abdominal burning pain, treatments may include lifestyle modifications, medication, or surgery.

People must attend the emergency room if abdominal pain comes on suddenly and is severe.