Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract Conditions

Part of: Gut Health

Common upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract conditions

The upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract consists of the:

  • Oral cavity
  • Oesophagus
  • Stomach
  • Duodenum (first part of the small intestine)

These organs play a critical function – they break down the food you consume so that your lower GI tract can absorb the nutrients.

Disorders along the upper GI tract usually require prompt medical attention. Learn about the conditions affecting the upper GI tract and explore digestive health treatments and services.

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Gastritis is a swelling of the stomach lining. When the lining of your stomach is inflamed, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Left untreated, gastritis can result in severe complications.

Learn more about gastritis and its treatment options.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux or heartburn, is a chronic digestive disease. It occurs when acid from the stomach flows back (reflux) into the oesophagus (food pipe). Stomach acid may even reach the vocal cords or lungs in severe cases.

This acid reflux causes heartburn or a burning sensation of the chest that spreads from the stomach to the throat.

It is rare but normal to experience acid reflux once in a while. However, if this occurs more than twice a week for a few weeks, it could be a sign of GERD.

Learn more about GERD and its treatment options.

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop in the lining of the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine. They include:

  • Gastric ulcers occurring on the inside of the stomach
  • Duodenal ulcers occurring on the inside of the upper portion of the small intestine.

These painful sores develop when the lining of the stomach is damaged by acidic digestive fluids, Helicobacter pylori (a type of bacterial infection of the stomach) or certain medications.

If peptic ulcers are not treated, they can lead to serious complications including bleeding in the stomach and perforation (tear) of the stomach wall.

Learn more about peptic ulcers and their treatment options.

Stomach cancer (also called gastric cancer) is an abnormal growth of tissue in the stomach. The cancer usually starts in the cells lining the inside of the stomach. It can form a tumour or ulcer within the stomach, or spread through the wall of the stomach.

Early stomach cancer often does not show symptoms. As the cancer grows, common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Persistent vomiting or nausea
  • Black stools, which is a sign of bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Anaemia

Learn more about stomach cancer and our treatments.

Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is often described as discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen area. It is usually due to abnormal functioning of the stomach and part of the small intestine. In general, approximately 1 out of 4 adults will have experienced dyspepsia.

If you have indigestion, you may notice the following symptoms after eating:

  • Frequent burping
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pain in the upper abdominal area
  • Feeling full even after small amounts of food intake
  • Bloating
  • Nausea

Bleeding in the GI tract is not a disease, but a sign of problems in your digestive system. GI bleeding can be:

  • Overt, which means it is obvious and seen. This includes vomiting blood, passing black, tarry stool, and rectal bleeding.
  • Occult, which means it is hidden and unseen. Occult GI bleeding can lead to lightheadedness, fainting, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and abdominal pain.

Many disorders of the digestive tract may result in GI bleeding. It is important to seek medical attention to find the location and cause of the bleeding.

Learn more about bleeding in the GI tract.

Acute abdominal pain is the sudden onset of severe pain in the abdomen. You may also experience nausea or vomiting along with the pain.

Acute abdominal pain is a sign of problems in your digestive system, such as an:

  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Obstruction in your GI tract.

It requires urgent medical attention and treatment to identify and rectify the cause of the pain.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.