Abdominal Distension: Introduction
Abdominal distension is the swelling or enlarging of the abdomen in the area between the ribs and the groin. Abdominal distension is symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Abdominal distension can result from infection, malignancy, inflammation, trauma, fluid retention, obstruction and other abnormal processes. Abdominal distension can also be normal when it is due to pregnancy.
Abdominal distension can occur in any age group or population. Abdominal distension can be due to a mild condition, such as mild indigestion or overeating. Abdominal distension can also happen in a moderate condition, disorder or disease, such as premenstrual syndrome, colic or being overweight. Abdominal distension can also be due to serious, even life-threatening conditions or trauma, including blunt abdominal trauma, abdominal cancer, congestive heart failure, intestinal obstruction or kidney failure.
Depending on the cause, abdominal distension can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when abdominal distension occurs after a single episode of overeating and indigestion. Abdominal distension can also be recurring over a longer period of time, such as when abdominal distension is due to premenstrual syndrome. Abdominal distention can be acute and occur relatively quickly, such as in peritonitis. Abdominal pain may also be ongoing over a period of time, such as in ascites that is due to cirrhosis of the liver.
Abdominal distension can be the result of a wide variety of gastrointestinal or digestive conditions. These include constipation, pancreatic cancer and food poisoning. Abdominal distention can also result from an enlarged prostate and urinary retention.
Abdominal distension generally occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other common symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and gas. The underlying disorder, disease or condition that is causing abdominal distension can cause complications, some of which can be serious, even life-threatening. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of abdominal distension.
Diagnosing abdominal distension and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Diagnosis may also include a complete blood count, which can help to determine if an infectious process, such as food poisoning is present. A chemistry panel is a blood test that can evaluate if abdominal distension coupled with vomiting and/or diarrhea has lead to the complications of dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. An urinanalysis can also help to determine dehydration and if glomerulonephritis or kidney failure may be causing abdominal distension.
Making a diagnosis may also include performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose other potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders, such as ovarian cancer, congestive heart failure, abdominal trauma, and cirrhosis of the liver. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity of stool, and imaging tests such as X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans, MRI, biopsy, and endoscopy.
In an endoscopy procedure, a special lighted instrument is passed into the area or areas of the gastrointestinal system that are suspected to be the cause of the abdominal distension and other symptoms. This instrument, called an endoscope, takes pictures of the digestive tract and/or sends images to a computer monitor.
A diagnosis of abdominal distension and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because abdominal distension may be mild or intermittent and for other reasons. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of abdominal distension.
Treatment of abdominal distension involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of abdominal distension. ...more »
Abdominal Distension: Symptoms
Abdominal distension can be experienced and described in a variety of ways that includes the sensation of abdominal bloating or abdominal pressure. Abdominal distension can lead to other symptoms, such as abdominal pain and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing can occur due to the pressure that abdominal distension ...more symptoms »
Abdominal Distension: Treatments
Treatment plans for abdominal distension are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, minimizes the discomfort of abdominal distension and decreases the risk of developing serious ...more treatments »
Abdominal Distension: Misdiagnosis
Diagnosing abdominal distension and its cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, abdominal distension may not be severe enough or last long enough for a person to seek medical care. This can happen with overeating or indigestion.
Abdominal distension is a symptom of many different conditions, some potentially life threatening, so recurrent ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Abdominal Distension
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Treatments for Abdominal Distension
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Home Diagnostic Testing
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Wrongly Diagnosed with Abdominal Distension?
Causes of Abdominal Distension
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Abdominal Distension: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Abdominal Distension
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed.
The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, is over...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called ...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,
but can also...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning).
In fact,...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed
(it can, of course, also fail to...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see symptoms of...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some of the better known possibilities are ...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Abdominal Distension
Abdominal Distension: Research Doctors & Specialists
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Hospitals & Clinics: Abdominal Distension
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on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
Abdominal Distension: Rare Types
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Abdominal Distension: Animations
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