What is dyspepsia (indigestion)?

Indigestion in children: Overview

Indigestion is pain in the upper part of the belly. It is also called dyspepsia. It often occurs with bloating, burning, burping, and nausea. Most of the time it happens while or after eating. It's usually minor and goes away within several hours.

Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of this problem. Home treatment and over-the-counter medicine often can control symptoms. Try to avoid the foods and situations that cause it. This may keep it from coming back.

Indigestion (dyspepsia)

Indigestion is a general term used to describe symptoms of stomach upset, particularly after eating. Most people have indigestion from time to time.

Common symptoms of indigestion include:

  • Generalized abdominal pain.
  • Feeling gassy (abdominal bloating).
  • Belching.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.

Occasional indigestion is not a concern. Usually home treatment is all that is needed to treat occasional indigestion. If indigestion occurs over and over, a visit to a doctor is needed.

What are the symptoms of dyspepsia?

Dyspepsia is a common symptom and can include:

  • Belly pain or discomfort.
  • Bloating.
  • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating.
  • Nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Burping.

Most people will experience some symptoms of dyspepsia within their lifetimes.

How is dyspepsia treated?

Treatment for dyspepsia depends on what is causing the problem. If no specific cause is found, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms with medicine.

How can you care for yourself when you have dyspepsia?

You can make changes to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of dyspepsia. Here are some things to try:

  • Try changing your eating habits.
    • Eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals if you can.
    • After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks might make your symptoms worse.
    • Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse. These may include chocolate, mint, alcohol, pepper, spicy foods, high-fat foods, or drinks with caffeine in them, such as tea, coffee, colas, or energy drinks.
  • Try to quit smoking, or cut back as much as you can. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • If you get dyspepsia at night, you can try raising the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows usually won't help.)
  • Try to avoid wearing tight clothing around your middle.
  • Lose weight if you need to. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help. Talk to your doctor if you need help with this.

What causes dyspepsia?

The most common kind of dyspepsia is called functional dyspepsia. This is when you have dyspepsia symptoms, but there is no clear cause.

Sometimes other health problems cause dyspepsia symptoms. Some examples are:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a hiatal hernia.
  • Gastroparesis.
  • A disorder that affects movement of food through the intestines, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Peptic (stomach) ulcer or duodenal ulcer.
  • An inability to digest milk and dairy products (lactose intolerance).
  • Gallbladder pain (biliary colic) or inflammation (cholecystitis).
  • Anxiety or depression.
  • Side effects of caffeine, alcohol, or medicines. Examples of medicines that may cause dyspepsia are aspirin and similar drugs, antibiotics, steroids, digoxin, and theophylline.
  • Swallowed air.
  • Stomach cancer.

Indigestion in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your child passes maroon or very bloody stools.
  • Your child has severe belly pain.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.
  • Your child's stools are black and look like tar, or have streaks of blood.
  • Your child has trouble swallowing.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child is losing weight and you do not know why.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.