Dyspepsia, also called indigestion or upset stomach, is a common intestinal problem that affects around 20% of population in the United States.
Dyspepsia is not really the condition of impaired digestion of food or indigestion but actually a functional disease thus it is also referred to as functional dyspepsia or non-ulcer dyspepsia.
Functional disease refers to abnormal functioning of an organ without observable change in the structure of that organ. The cause of functional disease may arise from impaired working of either the muscles of organs or nerves that control the organs. These nerves may be the nerves within the affected organs or the brain and spinal cord nerves.
Functional diseases often affect muscular organs of the gastrointestinal tract, namely the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, gallbladder and colon. There are diagnostic tests and procedures that can help to detect different gastrointestinal disorders. For example, ulcers can be diagnosed with the help of x-ray test, surgery or endoscopy. Inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach or gastritis can be detected by analyzing a sample of the tissue from the stomach under a microscope.
However, functional diseases of gastrointestinal tract cannot be seen with the naked eye or diagnosed under a microscope. This means that no known cause can be identified to explain the symptoms of a functional disease. Tests that are available cannot show any abnormality within the gut.
Sometimes, some diseases that were believed to be functional turned out to be non-functional. This is the case with Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach. Individuals with mild upper gastrointestinal symptoms were once considered to have a functional disease of the stomach or intestines, but infection with H.pylori has been recently found to be the cause. In such patients, treatment with antibiotics effectively relieves the symptoms.
Types of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Apart from dyspepsia, which is a major functional gastrointestinal disorder, there is also irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable bowel syndrome is believed to arise either from the colon or small intestine. The primary symptom of this disease is intermittent constipation and diarrhea. IBS also causes abdominal pain, cramps, excess gas and bloating.
Non-cardiac chest pain is another type of functional disease caused by a functional abnormality of the esophagus. It causes recurrent episodes of chest pain that resembles heart pain in patients who do not have cardiovascular disease.
Chronic constipation is also a functional disease. Biliary dyskinesia is a functional disease of the gallbladder.
Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia
Functional dyspepsia causes upset stomach, bloating, belching, abdominal pain or discomfort and feeling of fullness quickly after a meal. Nausea and vomiting may be present too. Finally, functional dyspepsia may cause loss of appetite and weight loss.