Edema Of The Abdomen

What Causes Abdominal Edema?

Abdominal edema can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose abdominal edema, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "abdominal edema" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Edema
  • Excess Salt Consumption
  • Eclampsia / Preeclampsia
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Liver Congestion
  • Atrophic Gastritis
  • Food Allergies
  • Hypothyroidism

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
history of eczema
rapid pulse rate
occasional bad dreams
significant diesel exhaust exposure
loss of appetite
tetracycline use
craving and eating wheat
frequent unexplained nausea
itchy skin
anal itching
allergy to chemicals
difficulty losing weight
... and more than 140 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of abdominal edema:
Cause Probability Status
Congestive Heart Failure 94% Confirm
Edema 30% Unlikely
Hypothyroidism 29% Unlikely
Food Allergies 3% Ruled out
Eclampsia / Preeclampsia 3% Ruled out
Excess Salt Consumption 3% Ruled out
Liver Congestion 2% Ruled out
Atrophic Gastritis 2% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate edema, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Do you have edema of the abdomen?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Slightly
→ Very much
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either not having edema of the abdomen or edema of the abdomen, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Cirrhosis of the Liver

When the liver loses its ability to make the protein albumin, water accumulates in the legs and abdomen.

Congestive Heart Failure

The weakened heart muscles may not be able to supply enough blood to the kidneys, which then begin to lose their normal ability to excrete salt (sodium) and water.  This diminished kidney function can cause the body to retain more fluid.

Edema (Water Retention)

Edema (Water Retention) also suggests the following possibilities:

Alcohol-related Problems

Excessive alcohol intake can cause edema.

Anorexia / Starvation Tendency

Semi-starvation can cause edema.  People with eating disorders may interpret the puffiness of edema or any changes on the scale as weight gain or getting "fat" and may panic and purge or take laxatives even more.

Aspartame/Neotame Side-Effects

Angioedema or swelling of the eyelids, lips, hands or feet are listed as possible reactions to aspartame.

Atrophic Gastritis

Edema may be due to low levels of circulating proteins from poor protein digestion.

Excess Salt Consumption

Salt can increase the amount of fluid that you retain in your body.

Hormone Imbalance

Hormones regulate the amount of interstitial fluid surrounding our body's cells.  A hormone imbalance can result in too much interstitial fluid, and thus edema.

Progesterone Low or Estrogen Dominance

Progesterone has also been used in the treatment of idiopathic edema under the premise that some women with idiopathic edema either do not ovulate or have a luteal phase deficiency.

Ovarian function was investigated in 30 women with postural idiopathic edema by measuring plasma estradiol and progesterone levels between the 21st and 23rd days of the menstrual cycle.  Plasma progesterone concentrations were found to be lower than 5ng/ml in 53% of the cases and lower than 10ng/ml in 83%.  The ovarian dysfunction most frequently observed was inadequate corpus luteum, i.e. progesterone deficiency with normal plasma estradiol levels.  In virtually all patients the initial disorder in capillary permeability, as evaluated by Landis' test, was fully corrected by progesterone administered orally.  However, clinical improvement was less marked with treatments of short duration (2-3 consecutive cycles).  In view of the complex cause of the disease, combined treatments in which progesterone might well play the major role are usually required.  [Presse Med 1983 Dec 10;12(45): pp.2859-62 (translated)]

Protein Deficiency

When protein (especially albumin) levels in your blood go too low, the colloidal osmotic pressure will decrease and allow fluid to escape from blood vessels into your tissues, resulting in edema or swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, knees and/or belly.

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