Indigestion, or dyspepsia, causes discomfort or pain in the chest or stomach, usually after eating or drinking.
Indigestion may be a sign of an underlying problem, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease ( GORD), ulcers or gallbladder disease.
What are the symptoms of indigestion?
The symptoms of indigestion include:
These symptoms may increase in times of stress.
Who is at risk of indigestion?
People of all ages and both genders can be affected by indigestion. It's extremely common. An individual's risk increases with excess alcohol consumption, use of medications that may irritate the stomach (such as aspirin), other conditions where there is an abnormality in the digestive system such as an ulcer and emotional problems such as anxiety or depression.
What causes indigestion?
Indigestion has many causes, including:
- Eating too much, eating too fast, eating foods high in fat or eating during stressful situations
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Stress and fatigue.
Swallowing excessive air when eating may increase the symptoms of burping and bloating, which are often associated with indigestion.
Sometimes people have persistent indigestion that is not related to any of these factors. This type of indigestion is called functional, or non-ulcer dyspepsia.
How is indigestion diagnosed?
If you are experiencing symptoms of indigestion, seek medical advice to rule out a more serious condition.
Because indigestion is such a broad term, it is helpful to provide your GP with a precise description of the discomfort you experience. In describing the symptoms, try to define precisely where the discomfort usually occurs, when it occurs and whether it is related to eating. Simply reporting pain in the chest or abdomen is not detailed enough for your GP to help identify and treat your problem.
First, your GP must rule out any underlying conditions. Your GP may send you for various tests that may include:
- Blood tests
- Breath tests for H pylori, if you could have an ulcer
- Barium X-rays of the stomach or small intestine
Your GP may also refer you for a gastroscopy, an endoscopic examination of the upper gastrointestinal tract. An endoscope, a long, thin flexible tube that contains a light and a camera to produce images from inside the body, is used in this procedure.
If tests reveal a specific cause for your indigestion, this can be treated. If these tests cannot pinpoint the cause of your pain, various other investigations may be undertaken to look for other causes, such as heart, liver or kidney disease.