However, there are numerous causes for a distended stomach, some of which are significantly more troublesome than others. The best way to make sure your distention is treated in a timely manner and to prevent it from progressing to something worse is to consult a doctor or other health care provider as soon as you notice it.
To learn more about what a distended stomach is, which conditions cause it, and what you can do to get yourself healthy again, keep reading.
What Is a Distended Stomach?
Unlike many medical conditions, a distended stomach is not a disease or illness in and of itself. Rather, it is a condition that can be caused by a number of different diseases and other factors. A distended stomach simply means an abdomen that has expanded past its standard girth, whether it did so the due buildup of gas or fluids.
The physical appearance of a larger abdomen works as the first sign many people notice with distention. Minor cases of stomach distention usually have harmless causes such as gas buildup or overeating. A distended stomach is simply one that’s bloated and larger than normal. Overfilling your stomach technically leads to the potential to cause distention.
Distended Stomach Symptoms
The most recognizable symptom of a distended stomach is the actual size of your abdomen. This is especially true if you’re fairly thin, as a bulging stomach will look out of place on you. However, there are some other symptoms you may notice as well.
The distended stomach can be a sign of other underlying conditions, generally involving the digestive system or something in that area. You may experience various types of gastrointestinal discomfort. Stomach distention may be associated with numerous symptoms.
It includes belching, fever, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. You may also feel abdominal pain since your stomach is stretched out to a larger size than normal.
Symptoms that suggest a visit to the ER include:
- Severe pain
- Persistent vomiting
- Vomiting Blood
- Palpable masses
As is the case with every medical condition, the most important part of keeping your stomach distension (or more importantly, the condition that’s causing it in check is to figure out what’s causing it right away. Early detection of a disease or illness gives you more time to fight back and keeps it from progressing too far.
To determine the cause of your distended stomach, a health care provider will do a physical examination and ask about your medical history. He or she may even use some sort of imaging to take a closer look at your abdomen.
Most often, a distended stomach is caused by a simple gastrointestinal problem. 1 in 10 people suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, which is one of the most common culprits, causing bloating and gas that can lead to stomach distention.
In this case, there’s no need to worry too much as it will generally go away quickly, but you should work on managing your IBS symptoms either way.
Lactose intolerance may also cause a distended stomach if you accidentally consume dairy products. Because people with lactose intolerance lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose found in milk and other dairy products, eating them can cause bloating and gas that can lead to distension. If you’re lactose intolerant, make sure you avoid dairy products or look for reduced lactose options that are designed for lactose intolerant individuals.
Knowing ascites, as it comes as another common cause of a distended stomach, although it’s a bit more serious than irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance. Such results to some sort of problem with your liver, which sometimes turns out to be cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when your liver becomes scarred and thickened over time and is usually caused by either alcohol abuse, hepatitis or an accumulation of fat in the liver due to a disease.
These slowly become more and more swollen as it becomes present without symptoms for quite some time on your abdomen. The real problem with ascites is the underlying cause. However, there are some cases where ascites can become severe and may cause other problems, such as shortness of breath due to the diaphragm being restricted.
Conditions that cause a distended stomach demands intensified medical examinations. These include celiac disease, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, diverticulitis, food allergies, appendicitis, malabsorption syndrome, hernias and more. The only way to accurately determine the cause is to visit a health care provider for an evaluation.
Distended Stomach Treatment
A distended stomach refers to the point at which you can actually see that the stomach bloats. This comes as something that requires full-scaled attention from the person and the physician. Not only can this condition cause discomfort, it can also be unsightly, causing embarrassment. This leads to a lack of confidence in public in severe cases. If you have a distended stomach, a health care provider can help you treat it.
Treatment depends heavily on the root cause. Eating too much gluten when you have celiac disease results in the distention itself. Simply changing your diet brings you guaranteed relief.
Also, overeating or lactose intolerance arises as a serious matter. In fact, starting with dietary changes can be a good primary method of treating a distended stomach. If that doesn’t work, then you can try other steps.
Treatment needs to come more complex on a more serious underlying issue. Distention caused by issues with the liver won’t go away until your trusted physician takes a look on the liver problem itself. Gallstones, appendicitis, and pancreatitis necessitate the same manner of treatment.
Once you’ve treated the cause of your distended stomach, medications can help treat your distension. Some medications such as activated charcoal and probiotics can help improve your overall gut health, which in turn reduces gas and bloating in your abdomen and can provide relief of distention.
Alcohol Consumption and Distended Stomach
Long-term alcohol abuse certainly brings forth distended stomach. You’ll need to cut back significantly on your alcohol intake or stop drinking alcohol entirely. However, it can be quite dangerous for longtime alcohol abusers to stop drinking at a moment’s notice. Seeking medical help works well if you’re trying to quit this long-term addiction.
Once you’ve reduced your alcohol consumption, you can better manage your liver problems. Other conditions that contribute to your stomach distention needs more discussion with your trusted physician.
A distended stomach can look pretty severe from the outside, so it’s understandable if you’re concerned about your distension. However, a distended stomach alone is not something you need to seek medical help for in most cases. The actual build up of fluid or gas can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but it’s not particularly dangerous.
If you prefer not to seek medical help right away, try making dietary and lifestyle changes first and see if that fixes the problem. Your stomach can become distended from something as simple as overeating or eating a food that you’re allergic to, so eliminating this is as a possibility is an ideal first step in treating a distended stomach.
Chronic stomach distention
You should also keep in mind how long your stomach has been distended and whether it comes and goes. Chronic stomach distention may be a sign of an underlying issue that needs to be treated by medication, but distention that comes and goes may simply tell you that you’re eating or drinking something you shouldn’t.
Internal or external discomfort
If your distended stomach is causing internal or external discomfort, you can talk to a healthcare provider about treatment options. A doctor can run an allergy test panel to make sure you aren’t eating any foods you’re allergic to. He or she can also point you in the direction of different medications to try, many of which are available over the counter.
Regardless of what you do, make sure you don’t ignore your distended stomach for too long. Even though stomach distention can be a simple issue, you wouldn’t want to risk your condition progressing to something much more serious that requires medical attention.
Eventually, your physician diagnoses your condition and gives you advice on appropriate treatment. The key to properly diagnosing the cause of your distended stomach is determining what symptoms and risk factors you have. For example, you might have simply eaten too much pizza last night and are feeling bloated. Weighing factors like this alongside a medical evaluation can help you determine what’s causing your stomach distention and what you should do to treat it.