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Abdomen - swollen

Definition:

A swollen abdomen is when your belly area is bigger than usual.

See also: Abdominal girth



Alternative Names:

Swollen belly; Swelling in the abdomen; Abdominal distention; Distended abdomen



Common Causes:

Abdominal swelling, or distention, is more often caused by overeating than by a serious illness. This problem can be caused by:



Home Care:

A swollen abdomen that is caused by eating a heavy meal will go away when you digest the food. Eating in moderation will help prevent swelling.

For a swollen abdomen caused by swallowing air:

  • Avoid carbonated beverages
  • Avoid chewing gum or sucking on candies
  • Avoid drinking through a straw or sipping the surface of a hot beverage
  • Eat slowly

For a swollen abdomen caused by malabsorption , try changing your diet and limiting milk. Talk to your doctor.

For irritable bowel syndrome:

  • Decrease emotional stress
  • Increase dietary fiber
  • Talk to your doctor

For a swollen abdomen due to other causes, follow prescribed therapy to treat the cause.



Call your health care provider if:

Call your health care provider if:

  • The abdominal swelling is getting worse and does not go away
  • The swelling occurs with other unexplained symptoms
  • Your abdomen is tender to the touch
  • You have a high fever
  • You have severe diarrhea or bloody stools
  • You are unable to eat or drink for more than 6 - 8 hours


What to expect at your health care provider's office:

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history, such as:

  • Time pattern
    • When did the abdominal swelling begin?
    • Does it occur after meals or after eating certain foods?
  • What other symptoms occur at the same time? For example, have you had:

Tests that may be done include:



References:

Bengiamin RN, Budhram GR, King KE, Wightman JM. Abdominal pain. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 21.

Postier RG, Squires RA. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 45.




Review Date: 10/30/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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