Anyone over 50 years old will undoubtedly remember the commercial that started,
“You ate too much, you ate too fast!”
Well, with today’s rushed society people often eat too fast and/or too much and that can lead to a case of indigestion that truly isn’t funny! And during the holiday season, the likelihood of triggering a serious case of indigestion is even more likely.
According to the Mayo Clinic there are many symptoms of indigestion but they can affect people in completely different ways. That being said, some of the more common signs can include feeling full when you haven’t eaten much, pain in the upper abdomen between the bottom of the breastbone and the naval and/or burning in the upper abdomen.
While indigestion is not a disease it does cause millions of people great discomfort on a daily basis although many people get indigestion far less frequently. For most people the discomfort is manageable but some people with indigestion can be affected to the point where they feel they’re about to vomit.
While many cases of heartburn and indigestion are fairly mild, indigestion can be caused by a condition in the digestive track such as a peptic ulcer, cancer or GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Many people don’t realize there’s a difference between heartburn and indigestion but there is. Heartburn is generally described as a pain or burning feeling in the center of the chest that may spread to other body parts.
While over-the-counter medicines may provide some help for both indigestion and heartburn, and while mild indigestion is generally not considered serious, there are situations where it is best to seek medical advice. Some of the reasons to seek out immediate medical care can include vomiting, jaundice or yellow coloring of the skin and/or black, tarry stools. Also, it’s advisable to seek medical attention for any symptoms that last over two weeks.
For cases of serious or recurrent indigestion doctors can use a wide variety of tests to diagnose the problem including blood, breath and stool tests, and an upper endoscopy with accompanying biopsies.
Seek immediate attention if you have shortness of breath, sweating or chest pain that radiates to the jaw, neck or arm because these could be signs of a heart problem or even a heart attack rather than indigestion or heartburn.
While there may be many reasons people get indigestion and/or heartburn some relief usually occurs with some lifestyle changes. Decreasing stress and losing weight may help some sufferers considerably. Doctors may prescribe antacids, prescription drugs and/or antibiotics to treat the symptoms and provide relief.
For information contact your Mountains Community Hospital physician.