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Abdominal Swelling: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Abdominal Swelling?

Abdominal Swelling is a pathological condition in which the area around the stomach becomes larger than its normal size. This condition is also known by the name of abdominal distention or a swollen belly. This condition can be caused due to various reasons and is quite a common problem for many people in and around the United States. It is extremely rare that Abdominal Swelling is the cause of some serious medical condition but one should be on the lookout for certain signs which may require medical attention. Medical attention is required when the size of the abdomen keeps getting bigger and there are other symptoms occuring simultaneously with the swelling like fever, nausea or other constitutional symptoms. You may also need medical attention if Abdominal Swelling is accompanied by diarrhea, or blood in the stools with inability to keep anything down and excessive vomiting.

Abdominal Swelling

What can Cause Abdominal Swelling?

As stated Abdominal Swelling can be caused due to many factors which varies from simple things like eating a large meal or as a result of some other medical condition. This exact cause of the Abdominal Swelling can only be determined by a physician after a series of tests. One of the other common causes of Abdominal Swelling is gas which can be caused due to a high fiber diet. If this gas does not leave the body system it can lead to Abdominal Swelling. Some of the medical conditions which can cause Abdominal Swelling are as follows:

Abdominal Swelling Caused due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS is a pathological condition which results in severe cramping and pain in the stomach. This condition can also cause excessive gas formation in the stomach which may result in Abdominal Swelling. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is quite a common condition in the United States and studies suggest that one in six individuals suffer from this condition.

Abdominal Swelling Caused due to Lactose Intolerance: This is a pathological condition in which the body is not able to digest lactose which is a form of sugar that is present in most of the dairy products. The main symptom of Lactose Intolerance is abdominal swelling and gas which then leads to Abdominal Swelling. Lactose Intolerance is quite prevalent in Native Americans and is a common cause of Abdominal Swelling.

Ascites: This is a pathological condition in which there is build up of fluid in the abdomen. This fluid build up is normally caused due to abnormalities in the liver like cirrhosis. Ascites at the beginning does not cause any symptoms but with time when there is continuous buildup of fluid in the abdomen the patient will start to notice Abdominal Swelling. Apart from Abdominal Swelling, the patient may also experience pain and discomfort in the abdominal area. This condition is mostly found in people who abuse alcohol for a very long time such that their liver becomes extremely scarred.

Below mentioned are some of the less common causes of Abdominal Swelling:

What are the Various Tests that are done to Identify the Cause of Abdominal Swelling?

Before arriving at a cause that has resulted in Abdominal Swelling, the physician will want to know certain facts from the patient which are:

  • For females, if there have been any irregularities in the menstrual cycle or complete absence of periods.
  • If the patient has been experiencing episodes of diarrhea.
  • The physician will also ask if the patient has been feeling extremely fatigued of late.
  • The physician will also inquire whether the patient has been experiencing any excessive belching or other symptoms of gas.
  • The physician will also inquire whether the patient has suffered from episodes of vomiting or has had any abnormal weight gain of late.

On completing the history taking, the physician will order the following tests to come up with a cause for Abdominal Swelling:

  • Abdominal CT scan series
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • Colonoscopy
  • EGD
  • Paracentesis
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Stool for culture and sensitivity
  • Abdominal x-rays.

What are Some of the Treatments Given for Abdominal Swelling?

The treatment for Abdominal Swelling is solely dependent on the cause of it. There are also certain home remedies which might treat Abdominal Swelling.

Home Treatment for Abdominal Swelling

  • If overeating is the cause of the Abdominal Swelling then the best way to treat it is to wait for some time to allow the food to digest before you go for another round of eating. Eating small and frequent meals may also solve this problem.
  • If Abdominal Swelling is caused due to gas then the best way to avoid this problem is switching to foods which do not produce much gas. Try and avoid foods like beans, broccoli or cabbage. Also try and avoid carbonated drinks. Also helpful will be eating slowly to allow the food to be processed by the stomach and avoid production of gas.
  • If lactose Intolerance is the cause of Abdominal Swelling then avoiding dairy products may be a solution to the problem.
  • If irritable bowel syndrome is the cause of Abdominal Swelling, then increasing fiber in the diet may be beneficial. Also beneficial would be managing stress levels to a minimum.
  • In case of Ascites being a cause for Abdominal Swelling then reducing salt in the diet may go a long way in helping with Abdominal Swelling.

Medical Treatment for Abdominal Swelling

Medical treatment for Abdominal Swelling depends on identifying the cause. There is not much data available for treatment of Abdominal Swelling medically, although use of diuretics has shown to be beneficial in treatment. Diuretics eliminate any excess fluid from the body. In some cases if the fluid build up due to ascites becomes infected then additional treatment with rigorous antibiotics may be required for treatment. Apart from this, there is not much in the way of treating Abdominal Swelling through medications.


  1. “Abdominal Distension” by Dr. Yuranga Weerakkody, Radiopaedia. Available at: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/abdominal-distension
  2. “Abdominal Bloating: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments” by Dr. Melinda Ratini, WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-abdominal-bloating
  3. “Abdominal Distention (Bloating)” by Dr. Minesh Khatri, Merck Manual Consumer Version. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/digestive-disorders/symptoms-of-digestive-disorders/abdominal-distention
  4. “Abdominal Bloating” by Dr. William Blahd, Verywell Health. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/abdominal-bloating-overview-1942726
  5. “Abdominal Distention: What Causes a Swollen Stomach?” by Dr. Michael W. Smith, MedicineNet. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/abdominal_distention_causes_symptoms_and_treatment/article.htm
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 17, 2023

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