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Ninety patients and 30 senior hospital doctors were questioned about indigestion and dyspepsia. There were marked discrepancies between the views of patients and doctors. Most doctors considered indigestion to be synonymous with dyspepsia and associated it with peptic ulcer. Patients, however, were not generally conversant with the term dyspepsia and linked indigestion with psychological factors, feeding patterns and bowel function rather than physical illness. The patients' concept of indigestion corresponded closely with medically-accepted features of irritable bowel syndrome. Uncritical use of these terms may lead to misinterpretation of the patient's complaint and inappropriate management.