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  • Epigastric pain or burning, early satiety, or postprandial fullness.

  • Endoscopy is warranted in patients with alarm features or in those older than 55 years.

  • All other patients should first undergo testing for Helicobacter pylori or a trial of empiric proton pump inhibitor.

General Considerations

Dyspepsia refers to acute, chronic, or recurrent pain or discomfort centered in the upper abdomen. An international committee of clinical investigators (Rome III Committee) has defined dyspepsia as epigastric pain or burning, early satiety, or postprandial fullness. Heartburn (retrosternal burning) should be distinguished from dyspepsia. When heartburn is the dominant complaint, gastroesophageal reflux is nearly always present. Dyspepsia occurs in 15% of the adult population and accounts for 3% of general medical office visits.


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

This is the most common cause of chronic dyspepsia. Up to three-fourths of patients have no obvious organic cause for their symptoms after evaluation. 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 50 years with uncomplicated dyspepsia. Other causes include gastroparesis (especially in diabetes mellitus), lactose intolerance or malabsorptive conditions, and parasitic infection (Giardia, Strongyloides, Anisakis).

D. Helicobacter pylori Infection

Although chronic gastric infection with H pylori is an important cause of peptic ulcer disease, it is an uncommon cause of dyspepsia in the absence of peptic ulcer disease. The prevalence of H pylori–associated chronic gastritis in patients with dyspepsia without peptic ulcer disease is the same as in the general population.

E. Pancreatic Disease

Pancreatic carcinoma and chronic pancreatitis may initially be mistaken for dyspepsia but usually are associated with more severe pain, anorexia and rapid ...

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