Minor Illness - Indigestion

Indigestion

Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is pain or discomfort in your chest or stomach. This usually comes on soon after eating or drinking.

You may also have other symptoms, such as:

  • feeling full or bloated
  • heartburn 
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • belching 

Indigestion is a common problem that affects many people, but in most cases it is mild and only occurs occasionally.

Read more about the symptoms of indigestion.

Why it happens

Indigestion is caused by stomach acid coming into contact with the sensitive, protective lining of the digestive system. The stomach acid breaks down the lining, leading to irritation and inflammation (soreness and swelling). This causes the symptoms of indigestion.

In most cases indigestion is related to eating, although it can be caused by other factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking certain medications.

Read more about the causes of indigestion.

Treating indigestion at home

You may be able to treat your indigestion with changes to your diet and lifestyle, or with a number of different medications, such as antacids. Read more about the treatment of indigestion.

If an underlying health condition is the cause of indigestion, further investigation such as an endoscopy may be required (see below).

When to see your doctor

Most people will not need to seek medical advice for their indigestion. However, it is important to see your GP if you have recurring indigestion and you:

  • are 55 years old or over
  • have lost a lot of weight without meaning to
  • have increasing difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • have persistent vomiting
  • have iron deficiency anaemia
  • have a lump in your stomach
  • have blood in your vomit or blood in your stools

This is because your symptoms can be a sign of an underlying health condition that affects the digestive system, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

If this is the case, you may need to be referred for an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a procedure where the inside of the body is examined using an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube that has a light and camera on one end).

Severe indigestion can cause long-term problems with parts of your digestive tract, such as scarring of the oesophagus or the passage from your stomach. Read more about the possible complications of severe indigestion.

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