There is a wide range of stomach problems that present with different signs and symptoms. Some of these problems may be isolated to the stomach or include surrounding parts of the gut, like the esophagus proximally (before the stomach) and small intestine distally (after the stomach). At times, the entire gastrointestinal tract may be affected thereby eliciting varied signs and symptoms and this is sometimes mistaken for a problem only within the stomach.

The most common stomach problems are inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) and ulcers (gastric ulcer). Other common conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease affects theesophagus due to a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This fails to prevent the back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus and is usually associated with stomach problems. However, GERD is often not a result of any stomach problem, either structural or functional.

Symptoms of Stomach Problems

  • Belching
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flatulence
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Stomach Problems

The causes of many stomach problems may be due to a wide range of contributing factors and disease processes. This may be isolated to the stomach or gastrointestinal tract or have a secondary effect on the gut. At times, stomach problems may not be related to any disease process but is rather a result of physiological and psychological changes as is seen with a nervous stomach.

Belching

Aerophagia or air swallowing and the consumption of carbonated beverages are the more common causes of excessive belching (burping). It is not related to any pathology although it can be quite uncomfortable and distressing.

Other causes of gas production is a result of chemical digestion of foods and bacteria within the gut. This may emanate from the stomach or small intestine.

Refer to following articles for more details :

Dyspepsia (Indigestion)

The word indigestion does not necessarily mean that the process of digestion is impaired (maldigestion). Instead a number of symptoms, like bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, cramps, heartburn and.or nausea is often present especially after eating. Often, indigestion is just mild upper abdominal discomfort that is temporary and infrequent and not related to any pathology.

Refer to the following articles for more details :

Bloating

Abdominal bloating is often associated with gas accumulation within the gut. It is often difficult to isolate it to the stomach alone. Other causes of abdominal distension may not be related to gas but rather to fluid swelling (edema), abdominal fat, constipation and hormonal changes in women as part of the monthly menstrual cycle. Gas bloating will often present with excessive belching and flatulence, although the latter would be related to gas accumulation in the lower gut, particularly the large intestine.

Refer to the following articles for more details :

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea may be accompanied by vomiting or exist on its own. Both conditions are a sign of upper gastrointestinal irritation, although there are systemic causes, like drug and alcohol intoxication, pregnancy, chronic metabolic conditions, trauma to the head and eating disorders, that may trigger nausea and/or vomiting.

Common upper gastrointestinal causes of nausea and/or vomiting includes :

Heartburn

Heartburn is a common cause of centrally located non-cardiac chest pain/discomfort. It is often associated with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease / acid reflux) and irritates the esophagus lining and not the stomach, although other causes involving the stomach, like a hiatal hernia, may also be responsible.

Refer to Burning Chest Pain for a list of causes of heartburn.

Abdominal Pain

Upper left and middle abdominal pain is often associated with stomach problems. However, the abdominal cavity houses many organs that lie in close proximity to each other ad the various causes of left upper quadrant abdominal pain have to be taken into consideration.

The causes of pain related to stomach problems is discussed under :

Flatulence, Constipation and Diarrhea

These three gastrointestinal problems are often associated with the lower gut, however, pathology in the upper gut could be a contributing factor. Some of the stomach problems that may affect bowel movement and flatulence include :

  • Infective gastroenteritis
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
  • Achlorhydria
  • Gastric outlet obstruction
  • Perforated peptic ulcer
  • Gastrectomy, gastric bypass surgery

Bleeding in the stomach, particularly in gastritis or from a gastric ulcer, will result in changes in the stool. A black, tarry stool with an offensive odor may be a result of stomach bleeding and is known as melena. The causes of melena are discussed under dark blood in the stool.

Sometimes fresh blood in the stool, which is known as hematochezia, may also be related to bleeding in the stomach but will only be evident when there is rapid transit time like in diarrhea or a large volume blood loss.

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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on October 20, 2010