People who experience a “burning sensation” in the lower abdomen may have a condition of the urological, gynecological, or digestive system.

Causes of a burning sensation in the lower abdomen may include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease (PUD), kidney stones, certain gynecological conditions, and cancer.

People should note that a burning sensation in the lower abdomen is not common. It is more common in the upper abdomen, where the pain is usually associated with GERD or PUD.

A burning sensation in the lower abdomen often comes with urination, which means that it may be a urinary tract infection (UTI). However, a UTI may not present with any abdominal pain. For females, there are multiple gynecological conditions associated with lower abdominal pain that might feel similar to burning.

There are other conditions that could be associated with a burning sensation in the lower abdomen. People should talk with a doctor about their symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about the possible causes of a burning sensation in the lower abdomen, including any associated symptoms and how to treat them.

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A burning sensation in the abdomen may be a symptom of GERD, which is a chronic condition affecting the digestive system. It is one of the most common digestive conditions in the United States.

Doctors can identify certain risk factors for developing GERD. For example, some people have motor anomalies that affect the movements of the esophagus. This can affect the ability of the esophagus to clear its contents.

Another possible risk factor is dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter, which can allow acidic stomach contents to rise up through the esophagus.

Symptoms

Aside from a burning sensation in the abdomen, people with GERD may experience:

  • heartburn
  • regurgitation
  • chest pain
  • dental erosions
  • chronic cough
  • laryngitis
  • asthma

Treatment

Doctors may recommend several strategies to treat GERD, including certain lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, and endoluminal therapy.

They may first recommend the following self-care strategies:

  • losing weight (for people with overweight or obesity)
  • not eating 3 hours before lying down
  • elevating the head end of the bed
  • stopping smoking (or not starting)
  • not wearing tight clothing that puts pressure on the abdomen

It may also help to avoid the following potential trigger items, though the research into the effectiveness of avoiding them is limited:

  • chocolate
  • caffeine
  • spicy foods
  • citrus fruits
  • mint
  • fatty foods
  • carbonated beverages

Instead, a doctor may simply advise a person to avoid foods and beverages that they know worsen their symptoms.

Some medications that can help treat GERD include histamine blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

For people with severe symptoms that do not respond to the above self-care strategies or medications, surgery or endoluminal therapy may be necessary.

People with PUD may also experience a burning sensation in the abdomen.

Doctors will diagnose PUD when the inner lining of the stomach, small intestine, or lower esophagus becomes compromised by stomach acid secretions or pepsin. This is an enzyme that breaks down protein.

Doctors have identified several factors that may cause PUD, including:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • use of other medications, such as corticosteroids, bisphosphonates, potassium chloride, steroids, or fluorouracil

Smoking may also play a role in intestinal ulcers, while alcohol consumption can irritate the stomach and promote gastric acid release into the stomach.

Symptoms

People with PUD experience upper abdominal pain, right below the ribs, about 15–30 minutes after eating a meal. If the person has an ulcer in the small intestine, the pain may only begin 2–3 hours after a meal.

Some other signs and symptoms of PUD include:

  • bloating
  • abdominal fullness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • vomiting blood
  • blood in the stool

The following warning signs require immediate emergency care and a consultation with a gastroenterologist:

  • unintentional weight loss
  • progressive difficulty swallowing
  • bleeding in the digestive tract
  • iron deficiency anemia
  • recurrent vomiting
  • a family history of upper gastrointestinal tumors

Treatment

Doctors will treat PUD with medications or surgery. The options for medication therapy include the same drugs often recommended for GERD. PPIs are the preferred treatment because their action is superior to that of histamine receptor antagonists.

If a person tests positive for H. pylori infection, they may require antibiotics. The treatment for H. pylori infection includes two antibiotics and a PPI. People whose conditions do not respond to this protocol may require a quadruple therapy with bismuth and different antibiotics.

If possible, some doctors may recommend that people stop taking medications that contribute to PUD. However, people should not stop taking any medications without first seeking the advice of a doctor.

People with refractory disease that does not respond to medication may require surgery.

People develop kidney stones when a crystal, usually comprising calcium, travels from the kidney through the urinary tract. Kidney stones do not always cause problems and health complications, but some can get stuck and lead to medical issues.

Some risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • a personal history of kidney stones
  • a family history of kidney stones
  • increased absorption of oxalate through the intestine
  • UTIs
  • low fluid intake
  • a history of diabetes, obesity, gout, or hypertension
  • acidic urine

Symptoms

People with kidney stones may not experience any symptoms. The most common symptom of kidney stones is a sharp pain radiating to the groin when the stone begins traveling down the ureter. People may describe this pain as dull, colicky, sharp, or severe.

Some individuals may feel nauseous or vomit because of the pain. Blood in the urine is also common. Some people may also report a burning sensation when urinating.

Treatment

Doctors may need to prescribe pain relief medications, since passing a kidney stone is often very painful. People may also take NSAIDs to help with pain. Increasing fluid intake is also important.

Tamsulosin is a drug that helps people pass kidney stones; it reduces the stimulation of the smooth muscle in the urethra.

If a doctor finds a kidney stone that is 6 millimeters or larger, they may need to intervene to manually remove it from the urinary tract.

UTIs are bacterial infections of the urinary bladder. Doctors categorize UTIs as either complicated or uncomplicated. An uncomplicated UTI occurs in people who are otherwise healthy and not pregnant.

The most common bacteria that cause UTIs include:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Staphylococcus saprophyticus

Symptoms

People with a UTI may experience:

  • painful urination or a burning sensation while urinating
  • frequent urination
  • pain or tenderness below the belly button
  • blood in the urine

People who are very young or old may experience subtle or unusual symptoms. For example, older adults with a UTI may present with confusion or an altered mental state.

The symptoms of a complicated UTI are usually similar to those of an uncomplicated UTI.

Treatment

Doctors treat UTIs with antibiotics. To select the most appropriate antibiotic to treat the infection, the doctor will consider the person’s risk factors for infection with a pathogen that is resistant to multiple drugs.

People with a low risk may receive a first-line therapy such as:

  • nitrofurantoin
  • trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole
  • fosfomycin
  • pivmecillinam

Learn more about UTIs here.

Different gynecological conditions can cause pain in the lower abdomen that might feel like a burning sensation. These conditions may include:

  • a ruptured cyst
  • painful menstruation
  • endometriosis
  • pelvic inflammatory disease

During ovulation, a fluid filled sac, or cyst, may form on an ovary. Most are benign, but they can sometimes rupture and require intervention.

Painful menstruation, or dysmenorrhea, refers to pain during menstruation without a disease of the pelvis. Sometimes, other conditions can cause painful periods.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition of the female reproductive system wherein the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the abdomen.

Symptoms

The following table lists some of the symptoms associated with ruptured cysts, painful menstruation, and endometriosis.

Ruptured cystsPainful menstruationEndometriosis
Symptomssudden pelvic pain

blood loss or hemorrhage

nausea

vomiting
lower abdominal or pelvic pain

pain radiating to the back or legs

headache

diarrhea

fatigue

nausea or vomiting
lower abdominal pain and cramps

painful periods

pain or burning during sex

digestive problems

lower abdominal pain

exhaustion

Treatment

Depending on the diagnosis of a burning sensation in the lower abdomen with a gynecological cause, a doctor will select the most appropriate treatment.

The following table lists some treatment options for causes of a burning sensation in the lower abdomen.

Ruptured cystsPainful menstruationEndometriosis
Treatmentssurgery

pain relief medications

hormone therapy
NSAIDs

hormone therapy
hormone therapy

pain relief medications

surgery

Certain cancers of the digestive, urological, and gynecological tracts may present with pain in the lower abdomen.

Depending on the type of cancer, people may experience different symptoms. However, the condition may also go unnoticed.

Although cancer is more common in older adults, anyone with troubling symptoms should arrange an evaluation by a doctor.

Symptoms

The following table lists some warning signs and symptoms of urological, digestive, and gynecological cancers.

Cancer of the digestive tractCancer of the urological tractCancer of the gynecological tract
Symptomsvomiting blood

black and tarry stool

red stool with visible blood

fatigue and weakness

abdominal pain

abdominal swelling or mass

nausea

vomiting

loss of appetite

weight loss
blood in the urine

urinary retention

difficulty or pain when urinating
unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge

irregular periods

pelvic pressure or pain

frequent urination

constipation

bloating

abdominal or back pain

itching, burning, pain, or tenderness of the vulva

a change in the color of the skin around the vulva

Treatment

Different types of cancer require different treatments. These may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery aims to remove the cancer tissue, whereas chemotherapy and radiation therapy use medications or high energy rays to kill cancer cells.

Doctors may select a treatment based on the cancer’s location and stage. Sometimes, people may require a combination of treatments.

People with digestive cancers may also receive targeted therapies and immunotherapy.

People who experience a burning sensation in the lower abdomen may have a digestive, gynecological, or urological condition.

By investigating the other associated symptoms and the person’s medical history, doctors can diagnose a burning sensation in the lower abdomen and choose the most appropriate treatment option for it.

A doctor may also consider some other abdominal conditions, especially in older adults. These may include cancers of the gastrointestinal, gynecological, or urological systems.

Be sure to contact a doctor for a complete evaluation to determine the correct diagnosis and receive the appropriate treatment.