The term ‘indigestion’ is a layman’s term and is used to cover the symptoms of a few different medical conditions.
Medical conditions that are often described as indigestion and which have indigestion as a symptom are:
Here, we have mentioned just some of the symptoms that are described as indigestion. For a full discussion of the medical conditions underlying the symptoms, please seek information on conditions such as heartburn, reflux and flatulence.
Most people will suffer from episodes of indigestion from time to time — for example, if they eat too quickly, or eat too much. However, if you have a recurring problem or suddenly suffer from indigestion when you haven’t before, you should see your doctor.
Some of the symptoms described as indigestion are pain, discomfort or a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) and upper abdomen. Heartburn is caused by regurgitation of the acidic stomach contents up into the oesophagus and possibly the throat, known as gastro-oesophageal reflux by doctors. Gastric indigestion, or indigestion of the stomach, is sometimes called dyspepsia by doctors.
Indigestion may be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
Some of the causes of indigestion are:
Indigestion usually presents with only short-lived, minor symptoms, which happen to most people occasionally. However, sometimes indigestion can be an indication of a more serious condition. So see your doctor if any of the following happen:
This is particularly important if you are over 45 and have a history of gastrointestinal problems in the family, especially if you regularly take aspirin or pain killers for treatment of arthritis, and regularly smoke or consume alcohol.
See your doctor urgently if you experience any of the following:
If you have persistent indigestion, your doctor may suggest tests such as an endoscopy (where a long tube is passed down your throat to view your stomach); a barium meal test (which involves swallowing a barium solution that will show up on X-rays of your chest and stomach); or an ultrasound (which can diagnose gallstones).
Your doctor can advise you whether medication is necessary to treat your indigestion, and suggest ways to modify your lifestyle and eating habits to try to avoid it.
Last Reviewed: 17 June 2009