Indigestion, also called dyspepsia, is a term that is used to describe discomfort and pain in the upper abdomen that can include symptoms like:
- Feeling full
- Burning sensation in the stomach
- Growling stomach
Indigestion is a common enough condition that most people ignore it or take over-the-counter medications like antacids to relieve symptoms. Indigestion can be a condition in and of itself or a symptom of a larger problem.
Contrary to popular belief, heartburn is not the same as indigestion. While both of these conditions can be triggered under similar circumstances, such as overeating, eating too fast, or eating spicy foods, heartburn is often a symptom of indigestion.
Heartburn is caused by acid reflux, or stomach acid reaching the esophagus.
Unlike heartburn, indigestion doesn’t always involve acid reflux and includes symptoms like a growling stomach, even after eating a full meal.
Gallstones Or Gallbladder Disease
Indigestion can be a symptom of gallstones or gallbladder disease, so it is important to understand any other symptoms a patient may be experiencing:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain between the shoulder blades
- Pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen
- Pain under the breastbone
- Pain in the right shoulder
If a patient is experiencing these symptoms in addition to indigestion, it is important to screen patients for gallstones or gallbladder disease. If left untreated, the patient could suffer complications like blockage of the bile or pancreatic duct and gallbladder inflammation.
A stomach ulcer, also known as a peptic ulcer, can mimic the symptoms of indigestion:
- Burning stomach pain
- Feeling full
These ulcers are most commonly caused by bacteria or taking too many pain relievers like aspirin or NSAIDs and may not show any symptoms if they’re small enough. However, unlike indigestion stomach ulcers can have more serious symptoms like bloody stools, unexplained weight loss, and feeling faint.
While not as common, indigestion can be a symptom of a heart attack, causing patients to confuse the two conditions. However, unlike indigestion, a heart attack can be accompanied by symptoms like:
- Chest discomfort
- Pain in left arm that radiates to jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
The symptoms of a heart attack will vary from person to person. A heart attack is a serious condition and patients should call 911 immediately if symptoms are present.