Dyspepsia: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion, is a term that describes discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen. It is not a disease.

The term refers to a group of symptoms that often include bloating, discomfort, nausea, and burping.

In the majority of cases, indigestion is linked to eating or drinking. It can also be caused by infections or the use of certain medications.

Fast facts on dyspepsia

Dyspepsia is the same as indigestion, and it is not a disease. It is the name for a group of symptoms that cause discomfort in the abdomen.

Overeating, consuming greasy or spicy foods, and hiatus hernia can all cause indigestion.

An endoscopy can be used to identify the root cause.

Dietary choices and medication are used to manage dyspepsia symptoms.

What is dyspepsia?

Dyspepsia is a group of symptoms rather than a specific condition.

Most people with indigestion feel pain and discomfort in the stomach or chest. The sensation generally occurs soon after consuming food or drink. It may make a person feel full or uncomfortable during a meal, even if they have not eaten a large amount of food.

Treatments

Treatment for indigestion depends on the cause and severity of symptoms.

If symptoms are mild and infrequent, lifestyle changes will probably ease them. This usually involves consuming fewer fatty and spicy foods and less caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate. Sleeping for at least 7 hours every night may also help to ease mild indigestion.

Exercising regularly and quitting smoking are also important lifestyle changes in treating indigestion.

Medications

In severe or frequent cases of indigestion, a doctor may prescribe medication.

Antacids: These counter the effects of stomach acid. Examples include Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Rolaids, Riopan, and Mylanta. These are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that do not need a prescription. A doctor will usually recommend an antacid medication as one of the first treatments for dyspepsia.

H-2-receptor antagonists: These reduce stomach acid levels and last longer than antacids. However, antacids act more quickly. Examples include Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid, and Axid. Some of these are OTC, while others are only available on prescription.

Some people may experience nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and headaches after taking these. Other side effects may include bruising or bleeding.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Examples include Aciphex, Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, and Zegerid. PPIs are highly effective for people who also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They reduce stomach acid and are stronger than H-2-receptor antagonists.

Speak to a doctor about possible side effects.

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Prokinetics: This medication is helpful for stomachs that empty slowly. One example of a prokinetic drug is Reglan. Side effects may include tiredness, depression, sleepiness, anxiety, and muscle spasms.

Antibiotics: If H. pylori is causing peptic ulcers that result in indigestion, an antibiotic will be prescribed. Side effects may include an upset stomach, diarrhea, and fungal infections.

Antidepressants: If the doctor finds no causes for indigestion after a thorough evaluation, and the person with dyspepsia has not responded to treatments, the doctor may prescribe low-dose antidepressants.

Antidepressants sometimes ease discomfort by reducing the sensation of pain. Side effects may include nausea, headaches, agitation, constipation, and night sweats.

Psychological therapy: For people with functional dyspepsia, psychological therapy can help manage the cognitive aspects of indigestion. Cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, and relaxation therapy may be recommended.

The doctor may also recommend making changes to a person’s current medication schedule if they suspect that it could be causing indigestion. A course of aspirin or ibuprofen may sometimes be stopped and alternative medications advised.

It is important to change medications only under the supervision of a doctor.

Stomach pain woman
Indigestion is not a condition but a group of symptoms that affect digestion.

The following symptoms of dyspepsia are also common:

nausea

belching

pain

a feeling of fullness, or satiety

feeling bloated

In very rare cases, indigestion may be a symptom of stomach cancer.

Mild dyspepsia rarely needs further investigation, and should not be a cause for concern. A visit to a doctor is only needed if symptoms continue for more than 2 weeks.

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