What is Dyspepsia?

Dyspepsia is the medical term for indigestion and is used to describe pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Dyspepsia occurs in the absence of structural disease such as ulcers, tumors, infection, etc. The exact causes are not clearly understood, but are thought to be multifactorial. Patients with this condition seem to have hypersensitivity of the nerves around the stomach. They may also have abnormal motility of the stomach and upper intestine that contributes to their symptoms.

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Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Dyspepsia include pain the upper abdomen, nausea with or without vomiting, belching, bloating, distention and satiety (a feeling of fullness after eating a very small amount of food).

Dyspepsia can have a variety of different presentations, so other conditions – such as infections, ulcers, tumors, celiac disease and inflammatory diseases – should be ruled out.

Tests that can be performed to evaluate the patient include blood tests to assess for:

  • liver disease,
  • pancreatitis,
  • anemia,
  • and infections.

Stool tests can be used to rule out bacteria or parasites.

Imaging such as ultrasound or CT scans can help rule out tumors or gallstones. And an upper endoscopy can evaluate the lining of the stomach and intestine.

Quick Facts

Indigestion is often a sign of an underlying problem, such as GERD, ulcers, or gallbladder disease, rather than a condition on its own.

Symptoms of indigestion may increase in times of stress.

People often have heartburn along with indigestion, but heartburn itself is a different symptom that may indicate another problem.

Indigestion is not caused by excess stomach acid.

Prevention & Treatment

Overstimulation of pain and pressure receptors around the stomach appears to play a central role in Dyspepsia. Treatment involves dietary and lifestyle changes: eating slowly; eating smaller amounts; eating more frequently; reducing fatty, spicy or acidic foods; minimizing alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. Also, rule out lactose intolerance as a contributing factor; and minimize stress, if possible. Antacid medications can help with overproduction of acid. Medications to stimulate the emptying of the stomach can sometimes be helpful. Finally, certain antidepressant medications may be effective at turning off some of the pain and pressure receptors around the stomach.

Learn more about the specific diet associated with this condition.