The abdominal distension is characterized by the sensation of abdominal swelling and discomfort and possible visible inflammation of the abdomen. It is a common ailment since it affects between 10 and 30 percent of adults.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of distension may be general and difficult to determine, but most people describe that they feel full and have a swollen or inflamed abdomen. Also, they may present pain, excessive gas (flatulence), frequent belching and abdominal roar.
Bloating or bloating is often caused by overeating rather than serious illness. The problem can also be caused by:
- Air swallowing (a nervous habit)
- Accumulation of fluid in the lower abdominal region
- Gases in the intestine from eating foods high in fiber (such as fruits and vegetables)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lactose intolerance
- Ovarian cysts
- Partial intestinal obstruction
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Uterine myomas
- Weight gain
When to contact a medical professional?
Consult your provider if:
- The abdominal swelling presents with other unexplained symptoms.
- The abdomen is sensitive to touch.
- You have fever.
- You have severe diarrhea or bloody stools.
- You cannot eat or drink for more than 6 to 8 hours
Tests that may be done include:
- Computed tomography of the abdomen
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Blood tests
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
- Stool examination
- X-ray of the abdomen
Treatment and Management
The abdominal distention produced by eating a heavy meal will disappear when you digest the food. Eating smaller portions helps prevent swelling.
In cases of a distension of the abdomen caused by swallowing air:
- Avoid carbonated drinks.
- Avoid chewing gum or sucking candy.
- Avoid drinking fluids with a straw or drinking sips from the surface of a hot drink.
- Eat slowly.
When abdominal distension is caused by malabsorption, try to change your diet and reduce milk consumption. Talk with your healthcare provider.
Regarding irritable bowel syndrome:
- Decrease emotional stress.
- Add the amount of fiber in the diet.
- Talk with your provider.