Indigestion — also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach — is a general term that describes discomfort in your upper abdomen. Indigestion is not a disease, but rather some symptoms you experience, including abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness soon after you start eating. Although indigestion is common, how you experience indigestion may differ from other people. Symptoms of indigestion may be felt occasionally or as often as daily.
Indigestion can be a symptom of another digestive disease. Indigestion that isn't caused by an underlying disease may be eased with lifestyle changes and medication.
People with indigestion may have one or more of the following symptoms:
Less frequent symptoms include vomiting and belching.
Sometimes people with indigestion also experience heartburn, but heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back during or after eating.
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
Indigestion has many possible causes. Often, indigestion is related to lifestyle and may be triggered by food, drink or medication. Common causes of indigestion include:
Sometimes indigestion is caused by other digestive conditions, including:
Indigestion with no obvious cause is known as functional dyspepsia or nonulcer stomach pain.
Although indigestion doesn't usually have serious complications, it can affect your quality of life by making you feel uncomfortable and causing you to eat less. When indigestion is caused by an underlying condition, that condition can also have its own complications.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor, or you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in digestive diseases (gastroenterologist). Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor is likely to start with a health history and a thorough physical exam. Those evaluations may be sufficient if your indigestion is mild and you're not experiencing certain symptoms, such as weight loss and repeated vomiting.
But if your indigestion began suddenly, and you are experiencing severe symptoms or are older than age 50, your doctor may recommend:
If initial testing fails to provide a cause, your doctor may diagnose functional dyspepsia.
Treatments and drugs
Lifestyle changes may help ease indigestion. Your doctor may recommend:
If your indigestion persists, medications may help. Over-the-counter antacids are generally the first choice. Other options include:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Mild indigestion can often be helped with lifestyle changes, including:
Alternative and complementary treatments may help ease indigestion, although none of these treatments has been well studied. These treatments include:
Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements to be sure you are taking a safe dose and that the supplement won't adversely interact with any medications you're taking.
Last Updated: 2013-05-01
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