Abdominal Swelling: Causes

By Spader, Catherine RN

What causes abdominal swelling?

Abdominal swelling has many possible underlying causes. General conditions that can cause abdominal swelling include infection, malignancy, inflammation, trauma, obstruction and other abnormal processes.

Abdominal swelling can result from gastrointestinal or digestive conditions or from conditions of other body systems, such as the endocrine, nervous, reproductive and urinary systems.

Gastrointestinal causes of abdominal swelling

Abdominal swelling may accompany other conditions affecting the digestive tract including:

Other causes of abdominal swelling

Abdominal swelling can also be caused by problems in body systems other than the digestive tract including:

Life-threatening causes of abdominal swelling

In some cases, abdominal swelling may accompany a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Abdominal abscess

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Abdominal trauma

  • Acute congestive heart failure

  • Bowel obstruction

  • Hepatic encephalopathy

  • Peritonitis

What are the potential complications of abdominal swelling?

In some cases, abdominal swelling can be associated with serious and life-threatening complications, especially if the swelling is severe or the underlying disease or condition is untreated or poorly managed. Complications of these conditions include:

  • Bowel obstruction

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Severe discomfort or pain

  • Peritonitis

  • Reduced appetite

  • Shock


What is abdominal swelling?

Abdominal swelling is any bloating, distention or enlargement of the area between the chest and the groin. Commonly referred to as the “belly,” the abdomen consists of many organs, including the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and numerous blood vessels.

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What other symptoms might occur with abdominal swelling?

Abdominal swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Digestive symptoms that may occur along with abdominal swelling

Abdominal swelling may occur with other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 29, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System, Endometriosis

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