A distended stomach is a term usually used to refer to distension or swelling of the abdomen and not of the stomach itself. When the term is used in this manner, a number of different diseases and conditions can cause abdominal distension. These conditions can be related to digestion, such as malabsorption or lactose intolerance, or to disturbances in bowel function, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation. Bloating is another term that is sometimes used to refer to a swollen belly. Consumption of high-fiber foods can lead to intestinal gas and bloating. Less commonly, ovarian cysts or other types of tumors can cause the appearance of a distended abdomen. The accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, known as ascites, can cause the appearance of distension. Ascites has a number of causes, including cirrhosis of the liver.
A distended stomach (abdomen) can be associated with other symptoms, including
Other Causes of Distended Stomach (Abdominal Distention)
- Bacterial Infections
- Benign Ovarian Tumors
- Bowel Obstruction
- Small Bowel Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome
- Swallowing Air
- Viral Infections
- Weight Gain
Related Symptoms & Signs
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.Next Article
Main Article on Distended Stomach (Abdominal Distention)
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Causes of Distended Stomach (Abdominal Distention)
H. pylori (Helicobacter Pylori) Infection
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacteria that causes chronic inflammation (gastritis) of the inner lining of the stomach, and also is the most common cause of ulcers worldwide. About 50% of people in the world carries or is infected with H. pylori. Common symptoms of H. pylori infection are occasional abdominal discomfort, bloating, belching or burping, and nausea and vomiting. H. pylori infection is difficult to eradicate, and treatment is with two or more antibiotics.
Acute & Chronic Pancreatitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diet, and Treatment
Pancreatitis is a rare disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Symptoms of pancreatitis include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a rapid pulse. Treatment of pancreatitis often requires hospitalization.
Ascites, the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity is most commonly caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Some of the other causes of ascites include portal hypertension, congestive heart failure, blood clots, and pancreatitis. The most common symptoms include increased abdominal girth and size, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. Treatment depends on the cause of ascites.
Constipation (Relief, Home Remedies, Treatment Medications)
Constipation is defined medically as fewer than three stools per week and severe constipation as less than one stool per week. Constipation usually is caused by the slow movement of stool through the colon. There are many causes of constipation including medications, poor bowel habits, low fiber diets, laxative abuse, and hormonal disorders, and diseases primarily of other parts of the body that also affect the colon.
Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis, Diverticular Disease)
Most people with diverticulosis have few if any symptoms at all. When people do experience signs and symptoms of diverticulosis (diverticular disease) they may include abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticuli in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues that surround the colon. Treatment methods for diverticulitis includes prescription medications, and in some cases, diverticulitis surgery.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or EPI is a condition in which a person's pancreas can't produce or secrete certain enzymes into the gastrointestinal tract, which results in the inability to digest and absorb some minerals, vitamins, and fats from food. Symptoms of EPI include diarrhea, bloating, excessive gas, bone pain, and foul smelling bowel movements. Treatment for EPI is PERT therapy.
Gallstones (Pain, Symptoms, Causes, Diet, and Treatment)
Gallstones are stones that form when substances in the bile harden. Gallstones (formed in the gallbladder) can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. There can be just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or any combination. The majority of gallstones do not cause signs or symptoms; however, when they do occur the primary sign is biliary colic. Symptoms of biliary colic are constant pain for 15 minutes to 4-5 hours, and it may vary in intensity; nausea, severe pain that does not worsen with movement; and pain beneath the sternum. Treatment of gallstones depends upon the patient and the clinical situation.
Giardiasis (Giardia lamblia) is a parasite responsible for a common form of infectious diarrhea. The parasite lives in two stages: trophozoites and cysts. People at risk for giardiasis are those that live in areas where there is inadequate sanitation or treatment of drinking water. Giardiasis also is a common cause of outbreaks of diarrhea in day-care centers. Symptoms of giardiasis include abdominal pain, stomach cramping, bloating, nausea, and fatigue. Treatment for giardiasis is with antibiotic medication.
IBS Triggers (Prevention)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disease that can affect the quality of those who suffer from this condition. People with IBS can make lifestyle changes that may modify or control the number and severity of episodes. Certain foods, medications, and hormone levels may trigger IBS episodes, for example fatty foods, dairy products, eating foods in large quantities, foods that contain high levels of sorbitol, foods that produce intestinal gas (broccoli, onions, cabbage, and beans), chocolate, caffeine, physiological stress, some antibiotics, some antidepressants, medicine with sorbitol, and menstrual pain. Exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes can decrease IBS flares, and prevent the number and severity of IBS episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a GI (gastrointestinal) disorder with signs and symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloating, increased gas (flatulence), abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and food intolerance.Two new tests are now available that may help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea and constipation (IBS-M) irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C). Treatment for IBS includes diet changes, medications, and other lifestyle changes to manage symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in children is a functional gastrointestinal disorder with signs and symptoms of: Abdominal pain Bloating Diarrhea Constipation The cause of IBS is unknown, however, certain foods, stress, anxiety, and depression may contribute to the symptoms of IBS. There is no cure for IBS in children; however, medications, dietary changes, and stress management may relieve symptoms.
Lactose intolerance is a common problem where a person's digestive system cannot digest lactose. Signs and symptoms include: Diarrhea Gas Abdominal pain Abdominal bloating Abdominal distention (swelling) Nausea There are several tests to diagnose lactose intolerance. Treatment is generally made with dietary changes, supplements, and adaptation to small amounts of milk.
Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood cells in which the growth and development of the blood cells are abnormal. Strictly speaking, leukemia should refer only to cancer of the white blood cells (the leukocytes) but in practice it can apply to malignancy of any cellular element in the blood or bone marrow, as in red cell leukemia (erythroleukemia).
Liver cancer is cancer of the liver cells (hepatocellular carcinoma) or of the ducts in the liver (cholangiocarcinoma). Liver cancer often arises due to liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring) caused by alcohol use/abuse, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. Liver cancer may not cause any symptoms. Liver cancer is diagnosed with blood tests, imaging tests, and a liver biopsy. Treatment for liver cancer may include surgery, ablation, embolization, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
Obesity is the state of being well above one's normal weight. A person has traditionally been considered to be obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal weight. That ideal weight must take into account the person's height, age, sex, and build.
There are many types of ovarian cancer, epithelial carcinoma is the most common. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease. Some ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and abnormal vaginal bleeding, however, they usually do not present until the disease has progressed. Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like structures within an ovary. Symptoms of an ovarian cysts may be: Pain in the belly or pelvis A feeling for the need to have a bowel movement Urgency to urinate Pain during intercourse. There are a variety of causes and types of ovarian cysts, and treatment depends upon type of cyst.
Peritonitis is a bacterial infection inside of the abdomen. Some doctors choose to group the causes of peritonitis into five categories; 1) primary peritonitis, 2) secondary peritonitis, 3) tertiary peritonitis, 4) chemical (sterile) peritonitis, and 5) peritoneal abscess. Others do not categorize peritonitis, they use a term to describe the disease in front or behind the word peritonitis. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment is generally with antibiotics.
Pregnancy (Week by Week, Trimesters)
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include breast swelling and tenderness, nausea and sometimes vomiting, fatigue, and bloating. Second trimester symptoms include backache, weight gain, itching, and possible stretch marks. Third trimester symptoms are additional weight gain, heartburn, hemorrhoids, swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face, breast tenderness, and trouble sleeping. Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of physical and emotional disturbances that occur after a woman ovulates and ends with menstruation. Common PMS symptoms include; Depression Irritability Crying Oversensitivity Mood swings For some women PMS symptoms can be controlled with natural and home remedies, medications, and lifestyle changes such as exercise, nutrition, and a family and friend support system.
Uterine Fibroids (Benign Tumors of the Uterus)
Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) tumors in the womb (uterus). Most uterine fibroids do not cause symptoms; however, if the fibroid is large enough and in the right location, it may cause symptoms of pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and pressure on the bladder or rectum. Uterine fibroids that remain small and do not grow usually do not need treatment; however, surgery to remove the fibroid may be necessary. Uterine fibroids do not cause cancer; however, there is a rare, fast-growing cancerous called leiomyosarcoma.
Why Am I So Bloated and Gassy?
Bloating is a feeling that your abdomen is distended or larger than normal, but it does not necessarily mean that it is. Gas (flatulence) also can be a problem if you are bloated. Common, less serious causes of bloating are eating too fast, too much, or too many fatty foods; swallowing air; pregnancy; and menstruation. Cancer and IBD (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) are examples the more serious causes of bloating. Examples of foods and drinks that cause bloating are high fiber foods if you don't eat them regularly; eventually the bloating and gassiness will resolve if you eat them on a regular basis; fatty greasy foods, dairy products (for example, cheese, ice cream, milk, and yogurt); foods high in salt (for example, processed, frozen, and canned foods), and artificial sweeteners. Some doctors and other health care professionals recommend natural remedies like chamomile or peppermint tea, or pumpkin to relieve bloating. Examples of OTC medicine (medicine available without a prescription) and other products that may relieve bloating and gassiness are, Gas-X, Beano, Pepto Bismol, Metamucil, probiotics, and Ex-Lax for constipation associated with bloating. If you have persistent or severe gas and bloating, and if you have any of these symptoms see a doctor or other healthcare professional, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, bloody diarrhea, fever, or if you think you are or may be pregnant.
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