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Patient UKDyspepsia
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Classification and external resources
Patient UKDyspepsia

Dyspepsia (from the Greek δυσ- dys-, "bad" or "difficult", and πέψις pepsis "digestion"), also known as indigestion, is a condition of impaired digestion.[1] It is a medical condition characterized by chronic or recurrent pain in the upper abdomen, upper abdominal fullness and feeling full earlier than expected when eating.[2] It can be accompanied by bloating, belching, nausea, or heartburn. Dyspepsia is a common problem and is frequently caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gastritis.[3] In a small minority it may be the first symptom of peptic ulcer disease (an ulcer of the stomach or duodenum) and occasionally cancer. Hence, unexplained newly onset dyspepsia in people over 55 or the presence of other alarming symptoms may require further investigations.[4]

Functional dyspepsia (previously called nonulcer dyspepsia[5]) is dyspepsia "without evidence of an organic disease that is likely to explain the symptoms".[6] Functional dyspepsia is estimated to affect about 15% of the general population in western countries.[5]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

The characteristic symptoms of dyspepsia are upper abdominal pain, bloating, fullness and tenderness on palpation .[citation needed] Pain worsened by exertion and associated with nausea and perspiration may also indicate angina.[citation needed]

The presence of gastrointestinal bleeding (vomit containing blood), difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, abdominal swelling and persistent vomiting are suggestive of peptic ulcer disease or malignancy, and would necessitate urgent investigations.[4]

In some cases, the clinical manifestations include symptoms indicative of more severe diseases, like cancer. These include dysphagia, weight loss, anemia, signs of upper gastrointestinal bleeding (such as hematemesis or melena) and jaundice. These symptoms are called "alarm symptoms" and the presence of every one of them is an indication for endoscopy, regardless of the age of the patient.


Non-ulcer dyspepsia

In about 50-70% of patients with dyspepsia, no definite organic cause can be determined. In this case, dyspepsia is referred to as non-ulcer dyspepsia and its diagnosis is established by the presence of epigastralgia for at least 6 months, in the absence of any other cause explaining the symptoms.

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract

When dyspepsia can be attributed to a specific cause, the majority of cases concern gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcer disease. Less common causes include gastritis, gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, coeliac disease, food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic intestinal ischemia and gastroparesis.

Liver and pancreas diseases

These include cholelithiasis, chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.


The list of drugs causing dyspepsia is long and includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics (mostly macrolides and metronidazole), oral ferrous sulfate, corticosteroids, cardiac medications (such as digoxin, calcium channel blockers and nitrates), theophylline, colchicine, bisphosphonates, oral contraceptives and L-DOPA.

Systemic diseases

There is a number of systemic diseases that may involve dyspepsia and include coronary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, hyperparathyroidism, thyroid disease and chronic renal disease.



People under 55 years without alarm symptoms can be treated without investigation. People over 55 years with recent onset dyspepsia or those with alarm symptoms should be urgently investigated by upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. This will rule out peptic ulcer disease, medication-related ulceration, malignancy and other rarer causes.[4]

People under the age of 55 years with no alarm features do not need endoscopy but are considered for investigation for peptic ulcer disease caused by Helicobacter pylori infection. Investigation for H. pylori infection is usually performed when there is a moderate to high prevalence of this infection in the local community or the person with dyspepsia has other risk factors for H. pylori infection, related for example to ethnicity or immigration from a high-prevalence area. If infection is confirmed, it can usually be eradicated by medication.

Medication-related dyspepsia is usually related to NSAIDs and can be complicated by bleeding or ulceration with perforation of stomach wall.


Functional and undifferentiated dyspepsia have similar treatments. Decisions around the use of drug therapy are difficult because trials included heartburn in the definition of dyspepsia. This led to the results favoring proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are effective for the treatment of heartburn.

Traditional therapies used for this diagnosis include lifestyle modification, antacids, H2-receptor antagonists (H2-RAs), prokinetic agents, and antiflatulents. It has been noted that one of the most frustrating aspects of treating functional dyspepsia is that these traditional agents have been shown to have little or no efficacy.[7]

Pharmacological acid suppression[edit]

Antacids and sucralfate were found to be no better than placebo in a literature review.[8] H2-RAs have been shown to have marked benefit in poor quality trials (30% relative risk reduction[8]), but only a marginal benefit in good quality trials.[7] Prokinetic agents would empirically seem to work well since delayed gastric emptying is considered a major pathophysiological mechanism in functional dyspepsia.[7] They have been shown in a meta-analysis to produce a relative risk reduction of up to 50%, but the studies evaluated to come to this conclusion used the drug cisapride which has since been removed from the market (now only available as an investigational agent)[9] due to serious adverse events such as torsades, and publication bias has been cited as a potential partial explanation for such a high benefit.[8] Modern prokinetic agents such as metoclopramide, erythromycin and tegaserod have little or no established efficacy and often result in substantial side effects.[8] Simethicone has been found to be of some value, as one trial suggests potential benefit over placebo and another shows equivalence with cisapride.[8] So, with the somewhat recent advent of the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class of medications, the question of whether these new agents are superior to traditional therapy has arisen.

A 2002 systemic review of herbal products found that several herbs, including peppermint and caraway, have anti-dyspeptic effects for non-ulcer dyspepsia with "encouraging safety profiles".[10] A 2004 meta-analysis, pooling data from three double-blind placebo-controlled studies, found the multiple herbal extract Iberogast to be significantly more effective than placebo (p value = .001) at treating patients with functional dyspepsia through the targeting of multiple dyspeptic pathologies.[11] This German-made phytopharmaceutical was found to be equivalent to cisapride and significantly superior to metoclopramide at reducing the symptoms of functional dyspepsia over a four-week period.[12][13] Retrospective surveillance of 40,961 children (12 years and under) found no serious side-effects.[14] Red pepper powder has also found to be promising.[15] Ginger and related products made therefrom have been shown to have some positive alleviation of symptoms, in particular for motion sickness and pregnancy-related nausea [16]

Currently, PPIs are, depending on the specific drug, FDA indicated for erosive esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, eradication of H. pylori, duodenal and gastric ulcers, and NSAID-induced ulcer healing and prevention, but not functional dyspepsia. There are, however, evidence-based guidelines and literature that evaluate the use of PPIs for this indication. A helpful chart summarizing the major trials is available from the functional dyspepsia guidelines published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006.[7]

The CADET study was the first to compare a PPI (omeprazole 20 mg daily) to both an H2-RA (ranitidine 150 mg BID) as well as a prokinetic agent (cisapride 20 mg BID) alongside placebo.[17] The study evaluated these agents in patients at 4 weeks and 6 months and noted that omeprazole had a significantly better response at 6 months (31%) than cisapride (13%) or placebo (14%) (p = .001) while it was just above the cutoff for being statistically significantly better than ranitidine (21%) (p = .053). Omeprazole also showed a significant increase in quality of life scores over the other agents and placebo in all but one category measured (p = .01 to .05).

The ENCORE study, which was a follow-up of patients from the OPERA study, showed responders to omeprazole therapy had fewer clinic visits than non-responders (1.5 vs 2.0) over a three-month period (p < .001).[18][19]

Acotiamide is a new drug approved in Japan im March 2013 for the treatment of meal related symptoms of functional dyspepsia. It is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.[citation needed]

H. pylori connection[edit]

The relationship between H. pylori and functional dyspepsia has been controversial, with several trials finding a benefit to H. pylori eradication and others finding no benefit; a 2003 Cochrane Collaboration review found that treating H. pylori did have a small effect in improving nonulcer dyspepsia symptoms.[20]

More recently, "Helicobacter pylori eradication provided significant benefits to primary care patients with functional dyspepsia." according to a randomized controlled trial.[21] In this trial, the relative benefit ratio of Helicobacter pylori eradication for 50% reduction in symptoms at 12 months was 1.3 and, the relative benefit increase was 34.3%. In populations similar to those in this study which had a rate of benefit as measured by the 50% reduction in symptoms at 12 months of 36.5% without treatment, the number needed to treat is 8.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "dyspepsia" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ Talley NJ, Vakil N (October 2005). "Guidelines for the management of dyspepsia". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 100 (10): 2324–37. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.00225.x. PMID 16181387. 
  3. ^ Zajac, P; Holbrook, A; Super, ME; Vogt, M (March–April 2013). "An overview: Current clinical guidelines for the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and management of dyspepsia". Osteopathic Family Physician 5 (2): 79–85. doi:10.1016/j.osfp.2012.10.005. 
  4. ^ a b c National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Clinical guideline 17: Dyspepsia. London, 2004.
  5. ^ a b Saad RJ, Chey WD (August 2006). "Review article: current and emerging therapies for functional dyspepsia". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 24 (3): 475–92. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2006.03005.x. PMID 16886913.  Free full-text
  6. ^ van Kerkhoven LA, van Rossum LG, van Oijen MG, Tan AC, Laheij RJ, Jansen JB (September 2006). "Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy does not reassure patients with functional dyspepsia". Endoscopy 38 (9): 879–85. doi:10.1055/s-2006-944661. PMID 16981103.  Free full-text.
  7. ^ a b c d Mönkemüller K, Malfertheiner P (2006). "Drug treatment of functional dyspepsia". World J. Gastroenterol. 12 (17): 2694–700. PMID 16718755. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Talley NJ, Vakil N (2005). "Guidelines for the management of dyspepsia". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 100 (10): 2324–37. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.00225.x. PMID 16181387. 
  9. ^ Information regarding withdrawal of Propulsid (cisapride) by Janssen Pharmaceutica. From FDA
  10. ^ Thompson Coon J, Ernst E (October 2002). "Systematic review: herbal medicinal products for non-ulcer dyspepsia". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 16 (10): 1689–99. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.2002.01339.x. PMID 12269960. 
  11. ^ Melzer J, Rösch W, Reichling J, Brignoli R, Saller R (2004). "Meta-analysis: phytotherapy of functional dyspepsia with the herbal drug preparation STW 5 (Iberogast)". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 20 (11–12): 1279–87. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.02275.x. PMID 15606389. 
  12. ^ Rösch W, Vinson B, Sassin I (2002). "A randomised clinical trial comparing the efficacy of a herbal preparation STW 5 with the prokinetic drug cisapride in patients with dysmotility type of functional dyspepsia". Z Gastroenterol 40 (6): 401–8. doi:10.1055/s-2002-32130. PMID 12055663. 
  13. ^ Hanisch J, Bock P, Vinson B (2005). "The efficacy and safety of STW 5 versus Metochlopramide oral for functional dyspepsia under practice conditions (in German)". Med Klinik 100. 
  14. ^ Liechtle K (1999). "Experience reports on the use of Iberogast in children (in German)". Forschungsbericht Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerk GmbH. 
  15. ^ Bortolotti M, Coccia G, Grossi G, Miglioli M (June 2002). "The treatment of functional dyspepsia with red pepper". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 16 (6): 1075–82. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.2002.01280.x. PMID 12030948. 
  16. ^ UMM Medical Reference Section. "University of Maryland Medical Center". Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  17. ^ Veldhuyzen van Zanten SJ, Chiba N, Armstrong D, et al. (2005). "A randomized trial comparing omeprazole, ranitidine, cisapride, or placebo in helicobacter pylori negative, primary care patients with dyspepsia: the CADET-HN Study". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 100 (7): 1477–88. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.40280.x. PMID 15984968. 
  18. ^ Talley NJ, Meineche-Schmidt V, Paré P, et al. (1998). "Efficacy of omeprazole in functional dyspepsia: double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials (the Bond and Opera studies)". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 12 (11): 1055–65. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00410.x. PMID 9845395. 
  19. ^ Meineche-Schmidt V, Talley NJ, Pap A, et al. (1999). "Impact of functional dyspepsia on quality of life and health care consumption after cessation of antisecretory treatment. A multicentre 3-month follow-up study". Scand. J. Gastroenterol. 34 (6): 566–74. doi:10.1080/003655299750026010. PMID 10440605. 
  20. ^ Moayyedi P, Deeks J, Talley NJ, Delaney B, Forman D (December 2003). "An update of the Cochrane systematic review of Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy in nonulcer dyspepsia: resolving the discrepancy between systematic reviews". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 98 (12): 2621–6. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2003.08724.x. PMID 14687807. 
  21. ^ a b Mazzoleni LE, Sander GB, Francesconi CF, Mazzoleni F, Uchoa DM, De Bona LR et al. (2011). "Helicobacter pylori eradication in functional dyspepsia: HEROES trial.". Arch Intern Med 171 (21): 1929–36. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.533. PMID 22123802.