When Stomach Burning Is Serious, And When It Is Not

We know that stomach burning is not always symptomatic of a serious disorder, since most of us have experienced it at one time or another, and it has either gone away on its own, or with the help of an antacid. Another name for stomach burning is dyspepsia. An episode of dyspepsia is often a signal that digestion is somehow being impaired. Most of the time, the burning sensation is temporary, and for most of us it occurs infrequently. If it occurs regularly however, it can be a sign of some disorder that may require medical attention. Some of the more common disorders include a peptic ulcer, gastritis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A less common disorder, in which a burning sensation in the stomach is one of its symptoms, is stomach cancer.


There are a number of things that can lead to the disorder we usually refer to as gastritis, but all of them involve inflammation of the stomach's lining. It's not hard to visualize how inflammation of the stomach's lining can trigger a burning sensation. Gastritis is usually caused by the same bacteria that are a common cause of stomach ulcers. That does not necessarily mean having gastritis eventually results in stomach ulcers. That is a possibility, but in the vast majority of cases, gastritis is easily treated and doesn't lead to a stomach ulcer or any other serious disorder. Treatment of gastritis often simply consists of removing the cause, usually something that is eaten that encourages an increased rate in the production of stomach acid. Consumption of alcohol can also cause gastritis. An antibiotic, such as tetracycline, is commonly used to treat gastritis, as are medications that slow the rate of acid production in the stomach. Antacids, that neutralize the acid in the stomach, may also be a part of the treatment. Eliminating or neutralizing excess stomach acid, or reducing the inflammation of the stomach lining, will usually cause the burning sensation in the stomach to cease.


GERD is a chronic disorder in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. The acid can irritate the lining of the esophagus, and more often than not irritates the lining of the stomach as well, leading to a sensation of a burning throat as well as that of a burning stomach. While over-the counter-medications will often temporarily relieve the symptoms of GERD, medical treatment is usually necessary to treat and cure the disorder. Some of the same medications that are used to treat gastritis are used in treatments for GERD. Sometimes surgery is the only option if a decision has been made not just to treat the disorder, but to cure it. Lifestyle changes, including changes in eating habits, are often part of the treatment, or of the cure.

Peptic Ulcer

An open sore on the inside lining of the stomach or upper intestine is called a peptic ulcer, or a gastric ulcer,  and is yet another disorder that can cause a burning sensation in the stomach. Most peptic ulcers are caused by bacteria, although some are caused by certain medications. Peptic ulcers are rarely caused by spicy foods, although many people believe that to be the case. Stress has often thought to be a cause of peptic ulcers, but that does not appear to be true either, although stress can sometimes trigger symptoms that accompany a peptic ulcer. Peptic ulcers are initially treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria responsible for causing the ulcer. This is followed by acid-reducing medications which relieve the pain while aiding healing. Since peptic ulcers can be caused by agents other than bacteria, other types of treatment may sometimes be called for.

Stomach Cancer

When a burning sensation is experienced in the stomach, and appears to be chronic, or at least seems to linger, perhaps becoming worse with time, it is natural to become fearful that the burning sensation might be symptomatic of stomach cancer. A stomach burning sensation is indeed one of the symptoms of stomach cancer, but in the vast majority of cases it is symptomatic of some other disorder, or simply due to indigestion. Stomach cancer is relatively uncommon, and is becoming less common as the years go by.


If a burning sensation in the stomach is only temporary, and is not a frequent occurrence, there is usually nothing to worry about. Taking an antacid will often relieve the discomfort. If the pain persists, or appears to be getting worse, or if episodes of burning in the stomach are becoming more frequent, it's time to see a doctor. If the burning symptoms are chronic, it may be fair to assume that gastritis, GERD, or a peptic ulcer is the cause of the problem. Gastritis, as we have seen, is easily treated and cured. GERD and peptic ulcers are also treatable and curable, but the treatment may take longer. There is a relatively small chance that stomach cancer could be the cause, but if so, catching it early could mean the difference between life and death. Any symptom, including stomach burning, that persists or gets worse over time should be looked into by a medical professional.

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