Abdomen - swollen

Swollen belly- Swelling in the abdomen- Abdominal distention- Distended abdomen


A swollen abdomen is when your belly area is bigger than usual.

See also: Abdominal girth

Common Causes

Abdominal swelling, or distention, is more often caused by overeating than by a serious illness. This problem can be caused by:

Air swallowing (a nervous habit)

Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (this can be a sign of a serious medical problem)

Gas in the intestines from eating foods that are high in fiber (such as fruits and vegetables)

Irritable bowel syndrome

Lactose intolerance

Ovarian cyst

Partial bowel blockage


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Uterine fibroids

Weight gain

Home Care

A swollen abdomen that is caused by eating a heavy meal will go away when you digest the food. Eating in moderation will help prevent swelling.

For a swollen abdomen caused by swallowing air:

Avoid carbonated beverages

Avoid chewing gum or sucking on candies

Avoid drinking through a straw or sipping the surface of a hot beverage

Eat slowly

For a swollen abdomen caused by malabsorption, try changing your diet and limiting milk. Talk to your doctor.

For irritable bowel syndrome:

Decrease emotional stress

Increase dietary fiber

Talk to your doctor

For a swollen abdomen due to other causes, follow prescribed therapy to treat the cause.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if:

The abdominal swelling is getting worse and does not go away

The swelling occurs with other unexplained symptoms

Your abdomen is tender to the touch

You have a high fever

You have severe diarrhea or bloody stools

You are unable to eat or drink for more than 6 - 8 hours

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history, such as:

Time pattern

When did the abdominal swelling begin?

Does it occur after meals or after eating certain foods?


What other symptoms occur at the same time? For example, have you had:

Absent menstrual period


Excessive fatigue

Excessive gas or belching



Weight gain


Tests that may be done include:

Abdominal CT scan

Abdominal ultrasound

Blood tests


Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)



Stool analysis

X-rays of the abdomen