Dyspepsia is a condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract that leads to inadequate digestion. The condition is also known under the names upset stomach, indigestion or non-ulcer dyspepsia. Around 20% of people living in the United States have to deal with this condition.
Dyspepsia as a Functional Disease
Dyspepsia belongs to a group of so called functional illnesses. The very concept of functional diseases is quite useful when it comes to certain conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract. There are several functional illnesses affecting the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder and colon. In all of these illnesses there is no evident damage to anatomical structures. Instead, there is functional impairment of the muscles or nerves innervating muscles of the previously mentioned organs.
Functional illnesses cannot be confirmed with microscopic examination of the affected structures because there is no evident damage to the specific cells or tissues. Still, there are certain tests that can confirm functional gastrointestinal diseases.
Nevertheless, some illnesses may be initially classified as functional until one day the present abnormality becomes visible. In such case previously functional disease is transferred into a category of non-functional diseases. For instance, Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach was initially though to be a functional disease. Once the scientists have managed to identify the bacterium responsible for inflammation or the stomach and its abnormal functioning, the disease has been transferred into a non-functional group of illnesses.
Apart from dyspepsia there are several more functional diseases that commonly affect people. These include IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), non-cardiac chest pain etc.
All functional diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are categorized according to the affected organ. It is estimated that majority of functional diseases affect the esophagus and stomach. They are quite easy to be studied. Functional diseases of the small intestine and gallbladder are not more complex but are sometimes hard to be confirmed by available tests. Fortunately, each functional disease is characterized by a specific set of symptoms and signs.Dyspepsia Symptoms and Signs
Dyspepsia typically leads to upper abdominal pain (the pain is usually located above the navel), frequent belching, nausea (sometimes accompanied by vomiting), abdominal bloating, early satiety and abdominal distension. In case of abdominal bloating one has a sensation that his/her abdomen is full but there is no evident expansion of the abdomen. Abdominal distension, on the other hand, is actually swelling of the abdomen i.e. clear expansion of the abdominal wall.
Finally, symptoms of dyspepsia are triggered by eating. This is the reason why many people believe that dyspepsia is actually closely related to some sort of abnormality regarding the digestion of food.