Also called dyspepsia, indigestion refers to an uncomfortable pain in the stomach or chest that usually occurs after a person has been eating or drinking. Other symptoms of the condition include feeling full and bloated, feeling nauseous, belching and heartburn.
Indigestion affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, but usually the symptoms are mild and occur infrequently without causing lasting damage.
Indigestion is caused when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of the digestive tract. The acid attacks the lining, breaking it down and causing irritation and inflammation that can lead to symptoms such as pain and swelling. Indigestion often occurs after eating and may also be triggered by smoking, drinking alcohol or taking certain medications. Women may also find they are more affected by the condition during pregnancy.
Diagnosis and treatment
General practitioners rarely encounter cases of indigestion, as people often manage the condition by seeking over-the-counter or home remedies. Sometimes, persistent indigestion occurs as a result of underlying conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder), peptic ulcer or stomach cancer.
One commonly used procedure for investigating the cause of persistent digestion is upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. A thin, small tube or endoscope with a camera and a light at its tip is inserted into the stomach via the esophagus and used to visualize the inner walls of the esophagus and the stomach.
Treatment for indigestion can usually be bough over the counter. Antacids are commonly used to neutralize the stomach acids and provide relief.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc