Swollen, enlarged, or distended abdomen can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'minor' to 'generally fatal'. Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.
Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms. In order to diagnose swollen, enlarged, or distended abdomen, we could:
|A Weight Problem||23%||Unlikely|
|Enlarged Spleen||1%||Ruled out|
|Diverticular Disease||1%||Ruled out|
|Crohn's Disease||1%||Ruled out|
Do you experience any abdominal swelling / distension that does not appear to be meal-, gas- or weight-related? In other words, is your abdomen larger than it should be?
Possible responses:→ No / probably meal/gas/weight-related / don't know
→ Slight, comes and goes with or without meals
→ Slight, always present with or without meals
→ Significant, comes and goes with or without meals
→ Significant, always present with or without meals
Certain medications, including those containing lactulose or sorbitol, may cause bloating.
A strangulated hernia may cause abdominal distension.
A study of 51 women, 26 with endometriosis and 25 without, found that a significantly larger proportion of women with endometriosis than control subjects experienced abdominal bloating (96% vs. 64%) [J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2009 Dec; 31(12): pp1159-71]
Enlarged Lymph Nodes also suggests the following possibilities:
Hormonal fluctuations such as those occurring with pregnancy or at the start of a menstrual period (these raise progesterone levels) can slow down gut motility and cause food to pass more slowly through the digestive system, sometimes causing bloating and/or constipation.
Low protein intake can manifest as edema of the hands and feet, swollen abdomen, irritability, anorexia, a peeling rash, hair discoloration, and a large fatty liver. The abdominal swelling is due to (1) ascites caused by hypoalbuminemia and (2) an enlarged fatty liver.