ZocdocAnswersWhat is a distended abdomen?

Question

What is a distended abdomen?

Why would your abdomen get distended? I don't have any other problems or symptoms, but my stomach has definitely been swelling out and bulging in an alarming way. Is this possibly just a benign problem that I don't need to see a doctor about, or is it serious?

Answer

Your symptoms sound very uncomfortable. Problems with your abdomen and digestive track can be evaluated by a family doctor or in some cases gastroenterologists. A distended abdomen can be caused by several different things. First gas within the GI track can cause distention and abdominal pain. Some people find relief taking simethicone (the active ingredient in Gas X). Abdominal distention can also because by fluid collection outside the GI track. This can be caused by many different diseases including liver diseases, kidney diseases and heart failure. These are of course serious illnesses that would require prompt treatment. A distended feeling can occur if the the abdominal organs become larger than they are supposed to. For example, if the liver gets larger, it can take up more of the abdomen than normal give you a distended feeling. I suggest you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she will be able to take a detailed history, perform a thorough physical exam, and determine if there is anything worrisome going on in your abdomen. If necessary, your doctor may perform an ultrasound to see if there is any fluid causing distention. If the diagnosis and treatment (if any) are in question, then you may warrant referral to a gastroenterologist. Good luck.

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