According to Dictionary.com the word "epigastric" is used to describe the upper middle part of the abdomen, the area above the navel and below the breast. Epigastric distress, therefore, simply describes pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen. More than 25 different conditions can cause this type of discomfort, according to MedicineNet.
Abdominal pain is a common problem that is sometimes difficult to diagnose. However, sometimes the location of the pain is helpful in determining its cause. The Mayo Clinic website describes a number of potentially serious conditions that cause epigastric discomfort. These include heart problems, such as angina (decreased blood flow to the heart) or a heart attack, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pancreatitis, ulcers or gallbladder disease. However, many other causes of this type of pain are less serious, such as a pulled muscle or gas.
Another way to describe abdominal pain is by its character. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that generalized, diffuse pain is often caused by a stomach virus, gas or indigestion, while localized pain more commonly is caused by an organ such as the appendix. Similarly, cramping or intermittent pain is usually due to gas or bloating, while pain that is constant and lasts a long time, especially when accompanied by a fever, often has a more serious cause. Colicky pain or severe pain that comes in waves is often due to either a gallstone or a kidney stone.