What are indigestion symptoms?
Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia is a common problem and many people experience it from time to time. Indigestion is not a serious problem in itself but it could be a sign that there is an underlying health condition that is affecting the digestive system such as GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease)
Indigestion occurs when stomach acid comes into contact with the sensitive lining of the digestive system. The stomach acid breaks down the lining which causes irritation and inflammation which in turn causes the indigestion symptoms.
Indigestion, most o the time, is related to eating though it could be caused by other factors like taking certain medications or infection.
Indigestion treatment depends on its cause or causes. Treatments include various medications like antacids and changes to your lifestyle and diet. If an underlying health problem is the cause of indigestion, further tests or investigation may be required. Tests that can be performed to find out more about the causes of indigestion include endoscopy, a procedure where the inside of the body is examined using an endoscope. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube that has a camera and light on one end.
Before we discuss indigestion symptoms, let us first look at the possible causes of indigestion.
- Medications – Some medicines like nitrates can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that closes the gullet to keep off stomach acid. Other medicines that can cause indigestion are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.
- Hiatus hernia – this occurs when a part of your stomach pushes up into your diaphragm stopping the LES from closing.
- Peptic ulcers – an open sore that develops in the stomach lining or small intestine. Indigestion is one of the symptoms of peptic ulcer.
- Stomach cancer – cancer cells in the stomach break down the protective lining causing acid to come in contact with the walls of the stomach. Indigestion is one of the symptoms of stomach cancer.
- Obesity – being overweight can increase pressure in the stomach and can force the LES open exposing the esophagus to stomach acid.
- GERD – Gastro-esophageal reflux disease is a common condition and is one of the main reasons why recurring indigestion is experienced. In GERD, the sensitive lining of the esophagus is damaged due to the repeated exposure to stomach acid.
Common Indigestion Symptoms
The main symptom of indigestion is heartburn; the burning pain felt behind the breastbone and is caused by the acid passing from the stomach to the esophagus.
Aside from heartburn, other indigestion symptoms include:
- Feeling full
Serious Indigestion Symptoms
Indigestion can be a sign of a more serious health problem that is still undiagnosed like stomach cancer.
Consult your doctor immediately if your indigestion problems are recurring and if you:
- Are aged 55 or older
- Have difficulty swallowing
- Have iron deficiency anemia, a condition where the number of red blood cells are decreased because of not having enough iron in the body. Iron deficiency anemia causes breathlessness, an irregular heartbeat and fatigue.
- Have gastrointestinal bleeding or bleeding in your intestines and stomach. A sign that you have gastrointestinal bleeding is having blood on your stools or vomit, breathlessness, dizziness and fatigue)
- Have lost weight unexpectedly
- Have persistent vomiting
- Have a lump in your stomach
Now that you know the common indigestion symptoms, if you experience these regularly or if you have more painful than usual indigestion, seek medical help immediately.