Background : There is a paucity of data directly comparing dyspepsia in Western and Eastern populations.

Aim : To compare clinical symptoms, epidemiological factors and endoscopic diagnoses in two sample populations with dyspepsia from the United Kingdom and South-East Asia in a cross-sectional study.

Methods : Patients with uncomplicated dyspepsia attending endoscopy units in Leeds, UK, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were prospectively interviewed and underwent subsequent endoscopy.

Results : A total of 1003 Malaysian patients (January 2002 to August 2003) and 597 Caucasian British patients (January 2000 to October 2002) were studied. The mean age was 48.7 ± 15.8 and 47.5 ± 13.8 years for the Malaysian and British patients respectively (P = NS). There was a higher proportion of cigarette smoking (35.7% vs. 12.4%, P < 0.0001) and alcohol consumption (34.4% vs. 2.0%, P < 0.0001) amongst British patients, but no difference in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use nor having Helicobacter pylori infection. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms were more common in British compared with South-East Asian patients [heartburn (72% vs. 41%), regurgitation (66% vs. 29.8%) and dysphagia (21.1% vs. 7.3%), P < 0.0001]. This correlated with an increased endoscopic finding of oesophagitis (26.8% vs. 5.8%) and columnar-lined oesophagus (4.4% vs. 0.9%) amongst British patients (P < 0.001). A logistic regression model revealed that British Caucasian race (OR 9.7; 95% CI = 5.0–18.8), male gender (OR 2.0; 95% CI = 1.4–2.9) and not having H. pylori infection (OR 0.5; 95% CI = 0.3–0.7) were independent predictors for oesophagitis.

Conclusion : GERD is more common in British compared with South-East Asian dyspeptic patients suggesting that race and/or western lifestyle are important risk factors.