Dyspepsia refers to a heterogeneous group of symptoms that are localized in the epigastric region. Typical dyspeptic symptoms include postprandial fullness, early satiation, epigastric pain and epigastric burning, but other upper gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, belching or abdominal bloating often occur. Functional dyspepsia is defined as the presence of dyspeptic symptoms in the absence of an organic cause that readily explains them. The Rome III consensus proposed the subdivision of functional dyspepsia into postprandial distress syndrome (PDS), characterized by postprandial fullness and early satiation, and epigastric pain syndrome (EPS), characterized by epigastric pain or burning. Epidemiological studies in the USA and Europe confirmed the presence of both subgroups, with good separation between EPS and PDS. By contrast, other studies have found major overlap between EPS and PDS in patients with functional dyspepsia in specialist care centres in Europe and Asia. Preliminary pathophysiological studies suggest that PDS might be characterized by a higher prevalence of impaired gastric accommodation than EPS and raised duodenal eosinophil counts. Whether different treatment approaches are needed for EPS and PDS is currently unclear; only acotiamide, a new drug for the treatment of functional dyspepsia, has been found to be efficacious in PDS but not in EPS. Further randomized controlled trials testing treatment response by subgroup are urgently needed.