What is indigestion (dyspepsia)?
Indigestion (dyspepsia) is a nonspecific term used to describe discomfort in your upper abdomen, which often occurs after eating. Indigestion isn't a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms, including discomfort or burning in your upper abdomen, nausea, and a bloated or full feeling that belching may relieve. An occasional episode of indigestion generally
isn't anything to worry about and may even be related to hunger pangs. Indigestion is not a distinct condition, but it may be a sign of an underlying intestinal disorder such as peptic ulcer, gallbladder disease or chronic appendicitis.
Indigestion is a general term used to describe discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen or chest, usually after meals. An alternative term is ‘dyspepsia’. When a burning discomfort is felt behind the breast bone, it is known as heartburn. Indigestion is best described as a functional disease. (Sometimes, it is called functional dyspepsia.) The concept of functional disease is particularly useful when discussing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. The concept applies to the muscular organs of the gastrointestinal tract-esophagus, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder, and colon. What is meant by the term, functional, is that either the muscles of the organs or the nerves that control the organs are not working normally, and, as a result, the organs do not function normally. The nerves that control the organs include not only the nerves that lie within the muscles of the organs but also the nerves of the spinal cord and brain.
Some gastrointestinal diseases can be seen and diagnosed with the naked eye, such as ulcers of the stomach. Thus, ulcers can be seen at surgery, on x-rays, and at endoscopies. Other diseases cannot be seen with the naked eye, but can be seen and diagnosed under the microscope. For example, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) is diagnosed by microscopic examination of biopsies of the stomach. In contrast, gastrointestinal functional diseases cannot be seen with the naked eye or with the microscope. In some instances, the abnormal function can be demonstrated by tests (e.g., gastric emptying studies or antro-duodenal motility studies). However, the tests often are complex, are not widely available, and do not reliably detect the functional abnormalities. Accordingly, and by default, functional gastrointestinal diseases are those that involve the abnormal function of gastrointestinal organs in which the abnormalities cannot be seen in the organs with either the naked eye or the microscope.
Pain in the upper abdomen may come and go. For some people it can be relieved by food, especially if it feels like a hunger pain, although for others it can occur after eating. It can occur by day or at night, when it may be relieved by a snack or a drink of milk. Alternatively, it can occur without any relation to food at all. The stomach may feel full soon after starting to eat, so that it is difficult to finish a meal, or there may be an uncomfortable sense of fullness or bloating after a meal. The word 'indigestion' may also be used to describe nausea, retching or even vomiting after food.