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Pain Around the Belly Button

Belly button pain can be caused by a range of conditions from your appendix to your ovary.
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Last updated October 17, 2020

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Belly button pain symptoms explained

Although the abdomen is divided into four main quadrants, the belly button (or navel or umbilicus) is difficult to place into one specific section. As a result, pain around the belly button (periumbilical pain) may also feel like pain in the lower right or left quadrants. Pain around the belly button may be caused by issues among the surrounding structures or the digestive system.

Common characteristics of pain around the belly button

In addition to pain, associated symptoms may include:

What causes stomach pain around the belly button?

Pain around the belly button is often due to an issue in the lower abdomen. The organs in this area include:

  • Cecum: This is a small sac at the end of the large intestine that absorbs fluids and salts that remain after digestion is completed.
  • Appendix: This is a hollow tube attached to the cecum that serves an important role in fetuses and young adults.
  • Ascending colon: This part of the large intestine.
  • Right ovary and fallopian tube: These are reproductive organs in women.
  • Right ureter: This is a long, thin tube that transports urine from the kidney to the bladder.

See this image here for a visual representation.

Inflammatory causes

Inflammatory causes of pain around the belly button may be related to the following.

  • Infectious: Infection or inflammation of the organs in the lower abdomen can cause pain. The appendix is a very common cause, as it begins in the belly button and travels into the lower right abdomen. Symptoms can also occur when the urinary tract becomes infected.
  • Autoimmune: Conditions that primarily affect the gastrointestinal tract (inflammatory bowel diseases) can result in pain and other symptoms.

Obstructive causes

Obstructive causes of pain around the belly button may be related to the following.

  • Large intestine: The colon (also known as the large intestine) is an extremely long organ that folds upon itself. As a result, any particularly weak parts of the colon can be exposed to extreme pressure. Other parts of the colon can break through these weak spots and push through the muscle and surrounding tissue. This condition is called a hernia. Hernias can occur in any part of the abdomen but the pain is most often felt in the lower abdomen around the navel.
  • Small intestine: A blockage in the small intestine can be caused by scar tissue, cancer, or hernias. Blockages prevent material from moving forward. This causes the bowel behind the blockage to become large, dilated, and filled with fluid. This can result in symptoms such as cramping and constipation in addition to pain around the belly button.

Digestive causes

The acid that the stomach makes to digest food can irritate the components of the digestive tract, including the area around the belly button. Gas found throughout the digestive tract can also cause transient pain and discomfort.

Indigestion (dyspepsia)

Indigestion, also called upset stomach, dyspepsia, or functional dyspepsia, is not a disease but a collection of very common symptoms. Note: Heartburn is a separate condition.

Common causes are eating too much or too rapidly; greasy or spicy foods; overdoing caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated beverages; smoking; and anxiety. Some antibiotics, pain relievers, and vitamin/mineral supplements can cause indigestion.

The most common symptoms are pain, discomfort, and bloating in the upper abdomen soon after eating.

Indigestion that lasts longer than two weeks, and does not respond to simple treatment, may indicate a more serious condition. Upper abdominal pain that radiates to the jaw, neck, or arm is a medical emergency.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination. If the symptoms began suddenly, laboratory tests on blood, breath, and stool may be ordered. Upper endoscopy or abdominal x-ray may be done.

For functional dyspepsia – "ordinary" indigestion – treatment and prevention are the same. Eating five or six smaller meals per day with lighter, simpler food; managing stress; and finding alternatives for some medications will provide relief.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: nausea, stomach bloating, dyspeptic symptoms, bloating after meals, vomiting

Symptoms that always occur with indigestion (dyspepsia): dyspeptic symptoms

Symptoms that never occur with indigestion (dyspepsia): vomiting (old) blood or passing tarry stools, rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, fever

Urgency: Self-treatment

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Appendicitis refers to inflammation of the appendix, a small finger-like structure in the lower right corner of the belly. Appendicitis is extremely common, occurring in about five to 10 percent of people at some point in their lifetime. While it can occur at any age, the most commonly affected group...

Acute gastritis

When something interferes with the protective mechanisms of the stomach, a range of problems can occur from mild indigestion to deadly bleeding ulcers. Gastritis is an umbrella term for one of the most common problems, inflammation of the stomach lining.

Symptoms include nausea or vomiting...

Viral (norovirus) infection

If you ever heard of an entire cruise ship of people coming down with the same “stomach bug,” chances are that was norovirus. Fortunately, norovirus usually goes away on its own after a few days, but is pretty unpleasant and can spread extremely easily. The ...

Viral (rotavirus) infection

Rotavirus infection is a contagious gastrointestinal virus that most often affects babies, toddlers, and young children. It causes severe watery diarrhea, sometimes with vomiting and fever.

Adults may also be infected, though usually with milder symptoms.

Rotavirus spreads very quickly when any trace of stool from an infected child contaminates food or drink, or gets onto any surface. If another child consumes the food or drink, or touches the surface and then their mouth, the child will become infected.

Rotavirus in adults does not usually need a trip to the ER unless the degree of dehydration is severe but dehydration can set in quickly in children and is a medical emergency. A child can die if not treated immediately. Take the child to an emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Treatment consists of drinking fluids or IV fluids in severe cases and supportive care, usually in a hospital. Antibiotics will not help rotavirus because they only work against bacteria.

The best way prevention is frequent and thorough handwashing, as well as washing toys and surfaces when possible. There is now a vaccine that will either prevent rotavirus infection or greatly lessen the symptoms if the child still gets the virus.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache

Symptoms that always occur with viral (rotavirus) infection: diarrhea, vomiting or nausea

Symptoms that never occur with viral (rotavirus) infection: constipation, tarry stool

Urgency: Self-treatment

Stomach ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or the first part of your small intestine (the duodenum), which causes pain following meals or on an empty stomach.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, moderate abdominal pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)

Symptoms that never occur with stomach ulcer: pain in the lower left abdomen

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Gall bladder infection (cholecystitis)

Gallbladder infection, also called cholecystitis, means there is a bacterial infection of the gallbladder either with or without gallstones.

The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile, which helps to digest fats. If something blocks the flow of bile out of the gallbladder – gallstones, damage to the bile ducts, or tumors in the gallbladder – the bile stagnates and bacteria multiplies in it, producing an infected gallbladder.

Risk factors include obesity, a high-fat diet, and a family history of gallstones.

Symptoms include fever; chills; right upper quadrant abdominal pain radiating to the right shoulder; and sometimes nausea and vomiting. A gallbladder infection is an acute (sudden) illness, while the symptoms of gallstones come on gradually.

Untreated cholecystitis can lead to rupture of the gallbladder, which can be life-threatening.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, ultrasound or other imaging, and blood tests.

Treatment involves hospitalizing the patient for fasting with IV fluids, to rest the gallbladder; antibiotics; and pain medication. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is often done so that the condition cannot recur.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation

Symptoms that always occur with gall bladder infection (cholecystitis): abdominal pain (stomach ache)

Symptoms that never occur with gall bladder infection (cholecystitis): pain in the upper left abdomen, pain in the lower left abdomen

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Intestinal inflammation (diverticulitis)

Diverticula are small pouches that bulge outward through the colon, or large intestine. Diverticulitis is a condition where the pouches become inflamed or infected, a process which can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea

Symptoms that never occur with intestinal inflammation (diverticulitis): pain below the ribs, pain in the upper right abdomen

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, which creates and releases insulin and glucagon to keep the sugar levels in your blood stable. It also creates the enzymes that digest your food in the small intestine. When these enzymes accidentally get activated in the pancreas, they digest the pancreas itself, causing pain and inflammation.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: constant abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, severe abdominal pain, fever

Symptoms that always occur with acute pancreatitis: constant abdominal pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

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Normal abdominal pain

The complaint of nonspecific abdominal pain and discomfort, with no apparent cause, is one of the most common in medicine. It is a primary reason for patients to visit a medical provider or the emergency room.

The cause of abdominal pain can be difficult to find, because it can come from many different sources: the digestive tract, the urinary tract, the pancreas, the gall bladder, or the gynecologic organs.

The pain may simply be caused by overly sensitive nerves in the gut. This hypersensitivity can occur after repeated abdominal injury and/or it may have an emotional cause due to fear of the pain itself.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, patient history, and simply ruling out any other condition. CT scan is often requested, but can rarely find a specific cause. The benefits must be weighed against the risks of radiation.

Treatment first involves making any needed lifestyle improvements regarding diet, exercise, work, and sleep, in order to reduce stress. In some cases, counseling, hypnosis, mild pain relievers, and antidepressants are helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), vaginal discharge, fever, nausea

Symptoms that always occur with normal abdominal pain: abdominal pain (stomach ache)

Symptoms that never occur with normal abdominal pain: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, vaginal discharge, rectal bleeding

Urgency: Self-treatment

Belly button pain treatment options

When to see a doctor for pain around the belly button

Treatment for the pain around your belly button will be dependent on the cause. After your physician makes the appropriate diagnosis, he or she may suggest the following.

  • Antibiotics or infectious causes: You may be prescribed antibiotics that rid the body of harmful bacteria.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: If your symptoms are due to autoimmune conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, your physician may prescribe antibiotics or steroid creams.
  • Bowel rest: Your physician may suggest a lighter diet that will allow your intestines and digestive system to recover after obstructive or infectious causes of your belly button pain.
  • Surgery: For conditions such as appendicitis, surgery is the first-line option for restoring function, treating symptoms and preventing complications. Removal of the appendix is called an appendectomy.

FAQs about pain around the belly button

Why does pain start around the belly button in appendicitis?

The pain begins around the belly button because both the appendix and the thin membrane lying over the abdominal organs (peritoneum) are inflamed. The sensory nerves in this area carry the sensation of inflammation back to the spinal cord and brain. We feel that this pain is coming from the belly button due to a phenomenon called referred pain.

What does the pain of appendicitis feel like?

Symptoms can vary from person to person; however, pain is commonly felt as dull and aching around the belly button and progresses to become sharp and severe in the lower right abdomen.

When will the pain around my belly button resolve?

When your symptoms resolve depends on the cause. For example, inflammatory causes can be both chronic and temporary. In cases of appendicitis, the pain will resolve with treatment of the inflammation. In conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, pain can often recur and be chronic.

Is appendicitis life-threatening?

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires prompt attention and often surgical treatment. If treated promptly, appendicitis does not cause major complications. If you experience any of the above symptoms, go to an emergency room as soon as possible.

Does appendicitis happen in adults?

Appendicitis most commonly occurs in children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 20 years old. It is rare in infants but happens periodically in adults.

Questions your doctor may ask about pain around the belly button

  • Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • How would you describe the nature of your abdominal pain?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Hear what 2 others are saying
Sore to the touchPosted January 28, 2021 by D.
The pain came on suddenly and was found by accident. I went to pull up my pants and button them and brushed against my belly button. The pressure (which was light) resulted in a sharp stinging sensation. I pressed again and the same sharp pain. I prepared for the next pang of pain as I went to look closer. I have a deep innie of a navel, so I thought “maybe there’s a piece of a potato chip or in-grown hair." Not that THAT is a common occurrence. None of this was. But I felt a tight pulling sensation the night before as I laid down for bed so I thought maybe that could be a connection? Umbilical hernia sounds like it could be. Going to go read more as I have been overeating this week due to being overstressed
Abdominal stressPosted June 3, 2020 by C.
I am 28 years old. I'm having this persistent stomach ache centered around my navel, down to my pelvic to down my back (waist). Despite all the medication, it worked short-term but the pain continues. It aches, burns, etc, throughout the day, always. It's usually very severe when the weather is chilly or breezy if I don't cover my stomach with a thick blanket, or sleep with the fan off no matter how hot the weather is. I have not been myself. I have been so restless. What could be wrong with me?
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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