Dyspepsia/Indigestion: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Women who suffer from Dyspepsia/Indigestion

1Overview

The Digestive system is divided into two parts, the Upper Digestive system which consists of the mouth down to the esophagus, the stomach and to the duodenum (first section of the small intestine). The lower digestive system is consist of the rest of the small intestines, the colon, and the rectum.

Dyspepsia or also known as indigestion is a group of symptoms that are caused by an underlying problem that involves the digestive system. These common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, bloating, pain in the abdomen, heartburn, loss of appetite and excessive burping.  Some people may experience two or more symptoms that may be present from time to time.

2Causes

Problems involving the digestive systems is the main cause of indigestion like:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is still unknown but the common symptoms of IBS are abdominal cramps accompanied by loose bowel movements or even constipation.

Cholecystitis

It is the inflammation of the gallbladder that is caused by a blockage in the tubes that leads to the stomach. Pain is felt on the right side of the abdomen and leads to the back and shoulder blades, Fever and nausea are also present when the person has Cholecystitis.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

The gastric acid regurgitated into the esophagus that causes burning sensation in the chest.

Ulcer

Often caused by bacterial infection, the stomach lining or the intestinal lining is eroded thus making a sore that causes pain before or after meals.

Stomach cancer

The presence of abnormal growth of cells in the linings of the stomach can cause problems in the digestive system.

Depression and Anxiety

Emotional factors can also alter the normal function of the digestive system that causes constipation or even ulcers.

Adverse effects of medicines

Medicines have some adverse effects or side effects that can alter the normal flora of the stomach causing irritation and issues that involve the digestion of food.

Hiatus Hernia

The stomach is pushing the diaphragm upwards causing the inability of the esophageal sphincter to close properly.

Helicobacter pylori infection

The presence of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach can cause excessive production of gastric acid and can destroy the normal mucosa of the stomach, esophagus and sometimes the duodenum (part of the small intestines).

Obesity

Increase mass especially in the abdomen area can increase the pressure especially in the stomach. The sphincters in the stomach will not be able to close properly and the acids may leak into the esophagus causing heart burn.

Other diseases that does not involve the digestive system that also contributes to the indigestion are:

Hyperparathyroidism

The parathyroid gland secretes hormones that are above the normal levels that the body can take.

Thyroid disease

The thyroid gland is found in the neck, it regulates the T3 and T4 hormones in the body. Hypothyroid and hyperthyroidism are the disorders that happen in the thyroid gland.

Diabetes

This type of disease affects the level of sugar in the blood. The insulin that is produced by the pancreas is not sufficient to lower the blood sugar. There are 2 types of diabetes, symptoms include excessive thirst, increase urine output and polyphagia.

Kidney disease

Diseases that involve the kidneys like glomerulonephritis or end-stage renal disease can affect also the normal functioning of the other body system.

3Symptoms

The person may feel discomfort or burning sensation in the abdominal area, which is usually heartburn. The feeling of discomfort is not constant, the person may experience the pain after eating foods that are spicy and may subside after some time. Other symptoms of indigestion are:

  • Pain in the hypogastric region of the abdomen
  • Nausea after eating and sometimes accompanied by vomiting
  • Belching or excessive burping
  • Bloating
  • Feeling of fullness after eating a little amount of food.

Mild indigestion usually last for hours but for some, the discomfort may last up to weeks, it is better to have an appointment with your doctor to have it checked immediately.

4Complications

Dyspepsia or indigestion usually resolve within hours, but there are instances that the symptoms may cause serious complication like:

Pyloric stenosis

The irritation of the lining or the mucosa of the stomach especially in the pylorus can cause the narrowing of the passage into the small intestines. The narrowing of the pylorus causes indigestion and sometimes vomiting. Surgery is the best way to address pyloric stenosis.

Peritonitis

Peritonitis happens when the peritoneum lining of the stomach is exposed to the stomach acid. This occurs repeatedly over time and can affect the digestion in the stomach. Patients usually feel a burning sensation inside the stomach and sometimes radiates in the chest area. There are several ways to manage peritonitis like medication and surgery.

Esophageal Stricture

Scars can develop when the stomach acid leaks into the esophagus and that irritate the structure and lining of the tube. The scars can also constrict the esophagus and that can cause complications in time. Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing and episodes of chest pains are symptoms of usually the symptoms felt by the patient.

Weight loss

Unable to eat properly, patients tend to lose weight over time and unable to gain weight because of inadequate nutrition due to lack of nutrients going inside the body.

Anemia

Due to stomach ulcers and scars present in the mucosa of the stomach, bleeding may also occur. Loss of blood due to bleeding in the stomach can also lead to anemia.

5Diagnosis

Usually, indigestion can last up to hours and usually resolve on its own, but to make sure you can have a routine check-up with your doctor. The doctor will assess you and will ask questions like:

  • When is the pain felt
  • Is the patient taking any medications
  • What is the current lifestyle of the patient, what food do the patient typically eat.

The doctor will also perform physical assessment if there are any discolorations on the skin of the stomach, any bumps or wounds present. Auscultation is done to hear whether the bowel sounds are present in each quadrant of the stomach. Palpation is done to see if there are any tenderness in the stomach when pressed. Further tests should be done to known what is the underlying cause of indigestion like:

Blood test

Complete blood count is done to see the levels of the blood components in the body.
Low red blood cell level indicates the patient has anemia while increase white blood cells may indicate an infection in the body.

Test for Helicobacter pylori

There are several tests to determine the presence of Helicobacter pylori these includes:

  • Stool test: the stool antigen test requires a pea-sized sample of the stool and it will be sent to the laboratory.
  • Blood test: when the body is exposed to Helicobacter pylori, it will produce antibodies that will be detected during the blood test.
  • Urea breath test: the patient will be given a drink that the bacteria will ingest and after that, they will measure the presence of urea in the breath of the patient.

Endoscopy

Visualization of the lining of the stomach, esophagus, and duodenum to see if there are any ulcerations and scars present.

  • Liver function test

This is to see what is the current state of the liver. Any alterations in the functions of the liver may affect the digestion of the foods in the stomach.

  • Ultrasound

Ultrasound is done to see if there are any blockage in the gallbladder and to see if there are any stenosis in the intestines.

6Treatment

Treatment differs from person to person and what is the severity of the symptoms are. There are several treatments available like:

Lifestyle changes

Diet change is a must, avoid spicy food and make sure to not skip meals to avoid excessive acid production that may increase the risk of ulceration and scarring.

Exercise

Maintaining active lifestyle can decrease the risk of developing indigestion. Losing weight is also a must if the patient is obese.

Smoking and alcohol cessation

Smoking and drinking will also harm the lining of the stomach and also the esophagus. Excessive smoking and drinking may also lead to other diseases like a Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart problems, Stroke, emphysema and can also lead to kidney diseases.

Posture

Having a good posture will decrease the event of heartburn. Excessive pressure on the abdomen like stooping down and also wearing tight clothes will increase the risk of acid reflux and that can cause damage in the normal flora of the lining of the esophagus.

During bedtime, if the symptoms are still present, elevate the head of the bed to minimize acid leaking into the esophagus. Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before going to bed to lessen the acid production during sleep.

Antacids

Antacids neutralize the acids present in the stomach and reliefs the discomfort by the patient. Alginates are antacids that address the acid reflux, this is prescribed by a doctor to patients who have undergone check-up and series of tests. These people are usually have been diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).