Dull Or Sharp Upper Abdomen Pain Worse After Meals

What Causes Dull Or Sharp Upper-Center Abdominal Pain?

Dull or sharp upper-center abdominal pain can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'worrying' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose dull or sharp upper-center abdominal pain, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "dull or sharp upper-center abdominal pain" as a symptom.  Here are eight possibilities:
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Heartburn
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Atrophic Gastritis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Sphincter Of Oddi Dysfunction

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
discontinued non-human estrogen use
significant meal-induced pain
frequent stools
occasional unexplained vomiting
slightly pale stools
gallbladder attacks
abdominal pain reduced by eating
meal-induced pain for 1-4 weeks
having non-problematic gallstones
moderate periumbilical pain
history of heartburn
meals worsen top-left abdomen pain
... and more than 90 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of dull or sharp upper-center abdominal pain:
Cause Probability Status
Gallbladder Disease 90% Confirm
Atrophic Gastritis 15% Unlikely
Stomach Ulcers 15% Unlikely
Sphincter Of Oddi Dysfunction 5% Ruled out
Heartburn 2% Ruled out
Pancreatitis 0% Ruled out
Pancreatic Cancer 0% Ruled out
Gastritis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate abdominal pain increased by eating, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
UPPER-CENTER abdomen: If you experience discomfort or pain in the epigastric (stomach) area that becomes worse after eating, what best describes this pain?
Possible responses:
→ Not applicable / pain only after food / don't know
→ Pressure
→ Burning pain
→ Sharp, stabbing pain
→ Dull, nonspecific pain / not sure how to describe
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate epigastric pressure after meals, burning epigastric pain after meals, stabbing epigastric pain after meals or dull epigastric pain after meals, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Gallbladder Disease

The pain can vary from a mild discomfort or dull throbbing, to a deep ache or cramp, to an excruciating sharp or stabbing pain.


The stomach pain caused by gastritis can vary from a dull gnawing ache to a persistent sharp stabbing pain that seems to go right through your body from front to back.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
Symptom Entry
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