August 19, 2023

What is Abdominal Swelling?

Symptoms of abdominal swelling include feeling full or having a stomach ache, feeling your clothes are tighter than usual or noticing that you have more of a belly. Abdominal swelling is often due to common gastrointestinal conditions like heartburn, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome and can be easily treated with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter remedies. However, some causes are more serious and need to be treated by your GP. These can include a blockage in your intestines (bowel obstruction), fluid build up in your liver (ascites) and enlargement of the internal organs including your spleen, kidneys, pancreas, ovaries or uterus caused by inflammation or growths.

Your doctor can determine the cause of your abdominal swelling by examining you, checking your blood pressure and taking a urine sample. They can also order imaging tests such as a computed tomography scan or ultrasound of your abdomen and pelvic area.

If your abdominal bloating is due to a food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance or a wheat allergy, then you can try changing your diet to exclude foods that cause bloating symptoms. You can keep a food diary to identify trigger foods and talk to your GP or a nutritionist about safely adjusting your diet.

If your bloating is due to ascites, which happens when fluid builds up in the liver and gut, then resting and decreasing the amount of sodium you consume, found in salt, can help reduce the fluid build-up. Your doctor can also prescribe diuretics, which can help your body remove the fluid and relieve swelling. If an infection develops in the ascites fluid, your doctor may need to drain it using a tube called an ascitic tap.


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