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What Are the Causes of Mid-Abdominal Pain?

author image Robyn Hughes
Robyn Hughes has been writing since 2008 about health, nutrition, fitness and botanical medicine. She is a naturopathic physician and freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science from Indiana University and a doctoral degree from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore.
What Are the Causes of Mid-Abdominal Pain?
Mid-abdominal pain has many causes.

Mid-abdominal pain may arise for a variety of reasons. Many organs and bodily systems are contained within or near the abdomen, so pinpointing the exact cause of pain can be challenging. The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines causes of mid-abdominal pain that include dysfunction within the heart, gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, blood vessels, colon, reproductive organs or kidneys. Some abdominal pain-causing conditions may resolve on their own. Others may be serious and require medical intervention.

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Peptic Ulcer

The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library defines peptic ulcers as an erosion of the tissue in the stomach or the small intestine. Ulcers typically cause burning or gnawing pain in the mid-upper abdomen. The pain may diminish after eating food but recur a few hours later or at night. Treating ulcers helps to avoid complications, which may include vomiting blood, passing bloody stools, weakness, dizziness and thirst. Ulcers can also lead to perforation of the stomach or small intestine, which causes intense pain throughout the abdomen and back and requires medical care. Certain types of ulcers increase a person's risk of stomach cancer. The main risk factors for peptic ulcers are smoking and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.


Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines, often caused by a virus that leads to cramping pain in the middle and upper abdomen. Other symptoms--outlined by Drs. Joseph Schreger and Eleftherios Mylonakis, contributors to MD Consult's "Viral Gastroenteritis"--include watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever. A gastroenteritis-causing virus may be contracted by coming into contact with an infected person, from infected food, or from traveling. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is a major blood vessel that runs from the heart, through the chest and abdomen. An aneurysm occurs when a section of the aorta becomes weakened, leading to a bulging in the wall. According to the Mayo Clinic website, aneurysms can occur anywhere along the aorta, but the most likely location is within the abdomen. Most aortic aneurysms are small and slow to grow, so they don't cause problems. However, a large, fast-growing aneurysm may rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding. An abdominal aortic aneurysm may not cause any symptoms. But if it does, it may be experienced as a pulsating feeling in the middle abdomen, near the navel. A person may additionally notice pain in the abdomen, chest or back, especially with applied pressure.

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