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SYMPTOMS & SIGNS OF GASTROINTESTINAL DISEASE

DYSPEPSIA

ESSENTIALS OF DIAGNOSIS

  • Predominant epigastric pain.

  • May be associated epigastric fullness, nausea, heartburn, or vomiting.

  • Endoscopy is warranted in all patients age 60 years or older and selected younger patients with alarm features.

  • In all other patients, testing for Helicobacter pylori is recommended; if positive, antibacterial treatment is given.

  • Patients who are H pylori-negative or do not improve after H pylori eradication should be prescribed a trial of empiric proton pump inhibitor therapy.

  • Patients with refractory symptoms should be offered a trial of tricyclic antidepressant, a prokinetic agent, or psychological therapy.

General Considerations

Dyspepsia refers to acute, chronic, or recurrent pain or discomfort centered in the upper abdomen. A 2017 American College of Gastroenterology guideline has further defined clinically relevant dyspepsia as predominant epigastric pain for at least 1 month. The epigastric pain may be associated with other symptoms of heartburn, nausea, fullness, or vomiting. Heartburn (retrosternal burning) should be distinguished from dyspepsia. When heartburn is the dominant complaint, gastroesophageal reflux is nearly always present. Dyspepsia occurs in 7% of the adult population and accounts for 3% of general medical office visits.

Etiology

A. Food or Drug Intolerance

Acute, self-limited “indigestion” may be caused by overeating, eating too quickly, eating high-fat foods, eating during stressful situations, or drinking too much alcohol or coffee. Many medications cause dyspepsia, including aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics (metronidazole, macrolides), dabigatran, diabetes drugs (metformin, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, amylin analogs, GLP-1 receptor antagonists), antihypertensive medications (angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers), cholesterol-lowering agents (niacin, fibrates), neuropsychiatric medications (cholinesterase inhibitors [donepezil, rivastigmine]), SSRIs (fluoxetine, sertraline), serotonin-norepinephrine-reuptake inhibitors (venlafaxine, duloxetine), Parkinson drugs (dopamine agonists, monoamine oxidase [MAO]-B inhibitors), corticosteroids, estrogens, digoxin, iron, and opioids.

B. Functional Dyspepsia

Functional dyspepsia refers to dyspepsia for which no organic etiology has been determined by endoscopy or other testing. This is the most common cause of chronic dyspepsia, accounting for the majority of patients. Symptoms may arise from a complex interaction of increased visceral afferent sensitivity, gastric delayed emptying or impaired accommodation to food, or psychosocial stressors. Although benign, these symptoms may be chronic and difficult to treat.

C. Luminal Gastrointestinal Tract Dysfunction

Peptic ulcer disease is present in 5–15% of patients with dyspepsia. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is present in up to 20% of patients with dyspepsia, even without significant heartburn. Gastric or esophageal cancer is identified in less than 1% but is extremely rare in persons under age 60 years with uncomplicated dyspepsia. Other causes include gastroparesis (especially in diabetes mellitus) and parasitic infection (Giardia, Strongyloides, Anisakis).

D. Helicobacter pylori Infection

Chronic gastric infection with H pylori is an important cause of peptic ulcer disease, and may cause dyspepsia in ...

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