Burning in the stomach, also called dyspepsia, is not an uncommon occurrence. FamilyDoctor.org reports that one in four people get dyspepsia at some time in their lives. Over-the-counter medications can help relieve stomach burning in some cases, but persistent or severe burning will require evaluation and treatment by your doctor.
Symptoms of dyspepsia may include gnawing or burning pain, bloating, burping, heartburn, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Your symptoms may be consistent or may only occur occasionally or after eating.
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Dyspepsia can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. A weakness in the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus or incomplete closure of the sphincter allows food and stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus if you have GERD. Dyspepsia can also be a sign of a stomach ulcer or gastritis, an inflammation of the lining of your stomach. Frequent use of anti-inflammatory medications can irritate the stomach and cause burning pain.
Blood, breath and stool tests can detect H. pylori antibodies which can cause gastritis and stomach ulcers. Your doctor may also recommend an X-ray of your small intestine and stomach and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy if you suffer from burning pain in your stomach. During the procedure, your doctor uses a lighted tube inserted in your mouth to examine your gastrointestinal system from your esophagus to your small intestine. Your doctor can also remove suspicious tissue from the lining of your stomach and test it for H. pylori or other problems during an endoscopy. If tests indicate the presence of H. pylori, your doctor may request follow-up tests after treatment to ensure that the antibodies have been eliminated.
Treatment of burning in the stomach depends on the cause. Cutting back on anti-inflammatory use or taking another form of medication can help relieve burning pain caused by taking too many anti-inflammatories. If you have gastritis or GERD, your doctor may recommend that you take antacids to neutralize acids in your stomach. Over-the-counter and prescription-strength acid blockers and proton pump inhibitors help reduce or block acid production and help heal irritated tissue in the esophagus.
Doctors prescribe antibiotics, bismuth and proton pump inhibitors if H. pylori antibodies cause gastritis or a stomach ulcer. Proton pump inhibitors can also be helpful if your ulcer is not caused by H. pylori antibodies, according to Medline Plus.
See your doctor if burning persists for more than a week, despite home treatment. In rare cases, burning stomach pain can be a sign of stomach cancer. Other possible symptoms of stomach cancer include indigestion, nausea, heartburn, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing, blood in the stool, vomiting, trouble swallowing or fluid accumulation in the abdomen.