Northside Health Library Abdomen - swollen
A swollen abdomen is when your belly area is bigger than usual.
Swollen belly; Swelling in the abdomen; Abdominal distention; Distended abdomen
Abdominal swelling, or distention, is more often caused by overeating than by a serious illness. This problem can be caused by:
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
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
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 Office Visit
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history, such as:
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:
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.
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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