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Abdominal Swelling

Veterinarian Reviewed on April 27, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized


Abdominal swelling is defined as the enlargement, distention, or bloating at the abdominal area – which is located between the chest and the groin. The occurrence of abdominal swelling in an individual is quite alarming, because this region houses many vital organs such as the stomach, gallbladder, liver, and intestines.

Abdominal swelling can occur entirely, or at certain parts only. Swelling found in specific areas can be defined as an abdominal mass. The duration of abdominal swelling can be acute, for example, in a person who just overate. Chronic abdominal swelling, on the other hand, usually occurs in obese patients or those with ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity.)

Abdominal swelling can be mild, say, in a person who is bloated. It can be severe, that it adversely affects the surrounding organs. Complications related to abdominal swelling include loss of appetite, breathing difficulties, bowel obstruction, peritonitis, and even shock.


Abdominal swelling is a symptom associated with a diverse number of conditions. This symptom is usually found with people who overate, or those who suffer from food poisoning. People with lactose intolerance also experience this symptom. Conditions such as gallstones, pancreatitis, and liver problems also result in abdominal swelling.

Other illnesses which result in abdominal swelling include Appendicitis, Celiac disease, Uterine Fibroids, Portal Hypertension, Ovarian Cyst, Alcohol Abuse, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Gastritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Gastroenteritis.

Unfortunately, most cancers also cause the swelling of the abdomen. These malignancies include Pancreatic Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, Stomach Cancer, Breast Cancer, or Lymphoma.

Several life-threatening conditions also result in abdominal swelling. The following conditions should be given medical attention and treatment right away: Peritonitis, or inflammation of the abdominal lining can be a sign of infection or perforation of any of the gastrointestinal organs.

Hepatic Encephalopathy, which results from liver failure, can alter one’s consciousness and progress into comatose.

Bowel Obstruction, a fatal condition, is considered as a medical emergency. Acute cases resolve in 2-5 days, also untreated cases can warrant prolonged hospitalization.

Congestive Heart Failure, which results in diminished blood supply to several parts of the body, is fatal as well. Apart from abdominal swelling, people with congestive heart failure exhibit enlargement of the heart and increased pulse rate.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, which is the most common form of aortic aneurysm, is characterized by a two-fold (sometimes more) increase in the circumference of the abdominal aorta. When the aneurysm ruptures, blood spills to the abdominal cavity. Shock occurs and causes instantaneous death.

Abdominal Abscess, is defined as the presence of purulent material within the abdominal cavity. This, alongside abdominal swelling, usually point out to grave medical problems such as a ruptured appendix, a ruptured diverticulum, or an intestinal infection.

Other symptoms

Abdominal swelling related to gastrointestinal system problems usually come with these symptoms: diarrhea, flatulence, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, belching, and abdominal pain.

While these symptoms indicate indigestion or eating, some symptoms that are experienced alongside abdominal swelling warrant immediate medical attention. If you experience chest pain, bloody stools, breathing difficulties, fainting, dizziness, fever, bloody or black vomitus, body weakness, and jaundice, you need to seek the expertise of a doctor right away.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan