Complications of indigestion 

In most cases, indigestion (dyspepsia) is mild and only occurs occasionally. However, severe indigestion can cause complications, some of which are outlined below.

Oesophageal stricture

Indigestion is often caused by acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid leaks back up into your gullet (oesophagus) and irritates its lining. If this irritation builds up over time, it can cause your oesophagus to become scarred. The scarring can eventually lead to your oesophagus becoming narrow and constricted (known as oesophageal stricture).

If you have oesophageal stricture, you may have symptoms such as:

Oesophageal stricture is often treated using surgery to widen your oesophagus.

Pyloric stenosis

Like oesophageal stricture, pyloric stenosis is caused by long-term irritation of the lining of your digestive system from stomach acid.

Pyloric stenosis occurs when the passage between your stomach and your small intestine (known as the pylorus) becomes scarred and narrowed. This causes vomiting and prevents any food you eat from being properly digested.

In most cases, pyloric stenosis is treated using surgery to return the pylorus to its proper width.

Barrett’s oesophagus

Repeated episodes of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) can lead to changes in the cells lining your lower oesophagus. This is a condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 people with GORD will develop Barrett’s oesophagus. Most cases of Barrett’s oesophagus first develop in people aged 50-70 years old. The average age at diagnosis is 62.

Barrett’s oesophagus does not usually cause noticeable symptoms other than those associated with GORD.

The concern is that Barrett’s oesophagus is a pre-cancerous condition. This means that while changes in the cells are not cancerous, there is a small risk they could develop into "full blown" cancer in the future. This would then trigger the onset of oesophageal cancer.

Page last reviewed: 03/09/2014

Next review due: 03/09/2016