Is functional dyspepsia of particular concern in women? A review of gender differences in epidemiology, pathophysiologic mechanisms, clinical presentation, and management

Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Dec;101(12 Suppl):S644-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2006.01015.x.


Dyspepsia is a remarkably common symptom in the general population. Although multiple definitions have been used to describe the symptom, the most common explanation is that of chronic or recurrent pain or discomfort (a subjective negative feeling that may be associated with early satiety, fullness, bloating, or nausea) centered in the upper abdomen. When a thorough evaluation of a dyspeptic patient fails to identify a cause for her symptoms, the label of nonulcer or functional dyspepsia is applied. Functional dyspepsia is a heterogeneous disorder characterized by relapsing and remitting symptoms. Treatment strategies should focus on alleviating the most bothersome symptom and can be based on the proposed underlying pathophysiology. The effect of gender on mechanisms of disease, symptom presentation, and treatment response is an area of increasing interest and study. As with other functional gastrointestinal disorders, there appear to be some gender-specific features of functional dyspepsia. Specifically, gender-related differences have been observed in some studies of both the prevalence of individual dyspepsia symptoms, and in gastric emptying and proximal gastric motor function. There also appear to be gender differences in the psychosocial realm, with dyspeptic women experiencing a lesser sense of well-being than dyspeptic men, as well as an association of an abuse history with functional dyspepsia. This review will highlight specific gender differences related to the symptom presentation, pathophysiology, and approach to treatment of functional dyspepsia, while noting where differences have not been found and where further investigation is warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dyspepsia* / diagnosis
  • Dyspepsia* / epidemiology
  • Dyspepsia* / physiopathology
  • Dyspepsia* / psychology
  • Dyspepsia* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics