Navel Pain and When to See a Doctor About It

Did you know that navel pain is one of the main reasons people visit their primary care doctors? For this reason, diagnosing the cause of this common complaint is a crucial aspect of any primary care provider’s job.

Navel pain is more common than most people think and can result from several causes that range from mild to life-threatening conditions.

Find out what you can do to relieve the pain and get back to enjoying your everyday activities.

Causes of Naval Pain

Naval pain typically refers to issues in the lower abdomen. You may experience mild or sharp pain depending on the severity of the condition. Pain in the navel may be related to the following conditions:

Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is a bulge in the lower abdomen resulting from the sac surrounding the gut, enlarging and protruding outside the stomach. Anyone is at risk of developing this condition, regardless of race, age, or gender.

Infants, young children, and adults with increased abdominal pressure (obesity or pregnancy) are at a higher risk of developing an umbilical hernia. If you experience symptoms such as discoloration, tenderness, and swelling in your hernia, seek emergency medical care.

Gallbladder Problems

Gallbladder attack usually occurs in patients shortly after consuming a high cholesterol meal. This condition occurs when the gallbladder is overburdened with processing too much cholesterol at once. This condition sometimes results in gallstone formation, a hardened deposit of digestive fluid.
This triggers a sharp navel pain extending to the side and back between the shoulder blades. Common symptoms of gallbladder diseases include nausea, pain in the navel, and itching.

Gallstones, another form of gallbladder trouble, can also cause severe discomfort in the abdomen.
The treatment for gallbladder disease depends on the severity of the condition. Extreme cases may require surgical removal of the gallbladder.

Pancreas Problems

Pancreatitis is an irritation of the pancreas, an organ that regulates how your body processes sugar. An inflammation of this organ can cause a sharp pain in the navel which you can manage with treatment.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • Sudden pain in the abdomen
  • Indigestion
  • Weightless
  • Fast heart rate

In treatment for mild cases of pancreatitis, your doctor may recommend a diet change and advise you to avoid fatty food. In extreme situations, cholecystectomy may be necessary if gallstones are the cause of your pancreatitis.

Indigestion (dyspepsia)

Indigestion occurs by excessive or rapid intake of spicy or fatty food. While you can feel indigestion pain more in the upper abdomen, indigestion can also cause navel pain. The most common symptoms include

  • Bloating
  • Discomfort soon after eating
  • Flatulence
  • Heartburn

The safest way to prevent indigestion is to avoid all known triggers, eat slowly, and thoroughly chew your food before swallowing.

Your doctor may prescribe the use of an antacid to treat indigestion. If indigestion persists after two weeks, consult your doctor as this could indicate a chronic medical condition.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease affecting the small intestine and colon. This disease may cause mild or severe pain depending on the severity of your condition.

While the primary cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, the researcher believes an abnormal immune system and genetic factors may cause this condition. Crohn’s disease can lead to life-threatening complications.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, bloody stool, ulcers, reduced appetite, weight loss, and abscess. Risk factors for Crohn’s disease include:

  • Age 18-24 years
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • White race

Treatment for Crohn’s disease may involve a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or immune system suppressors.

When to see a doctor

While navel pain is usually not severe, several factors can cause life-threatening conditions requiring hospitalization. If you experience any of the symptoms below, visit a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  • Disruption in activities due to severe pain
  • Pain with nausea and vomiting
  • Painful and bloody stool


Navel pain is a symptom of many underlying conditions; as such, your doctor will perform a complete examination after checking your medical history. Your doctor may order additional tests like CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs to confirm a diagnosis.


Treatment for navel pain varies depending on the underlying condition. For a mild case of navel pain, your doctor may prescribe antacids or antibiotics to treat an active infection. Extreme cases might require surgery.

Tags: Health Tips

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