Why Shouldn’t You Ignore Abdominal Swelling?
Abdominal Bloating and Swelling
First and foremost, you need to differentiate between abdominal bloating and swelling. Bloating is frequently a sign of chronic diseases of the digestive tract, mostly a sign of indigestion. Bloating can cause discomfort, but is rarely life threatening, at least in the short run.
Abdominal swelling is altogether a different thing. Some swelling may have symptoms while others may not. Tumors may cause changes in belly shape, may cause swelling, but may not produce any other symptoms until they are too big. Similarly, different cancers of the abdominal cavity may cause swelling. Swelling may also occur due to the accumulation of liquid in an abdomen- a condition called ascites.
However, the most common cause of abdominal swelling may be a more benign condition called hernia. Benign, as it rarely causes life-threatening complications if proper care is taken. A hernia is bulging of internal organs, most commonly intestine, from the weak point on the abdominal wall. This weakness may be inherent or acquired. A small hernia may not need any treatment, just care, and use of abdominal belt/hernia belt.
Although not all abdominal swellings are dangerous, it is important to know the red-flags, changes in health or signs that may be dangerous.
Signs of Abdominal Swelling You Should not Ignore
- Unexplained weight loss- it may seem right initially, but if it is happening without any lifestyle changes, it is the reason for alarm. It could be due to hyperthyroidism, which increases metabolic rate, diabetes, liver disease, depression. Dangerous causes of weight loss could be undiagnosed cancer. Remember that cancer often does not produce any other sign in the initial stage.
- Fever- not necessarily a reason for concern, but one needs to worry if it is of unknown cause. The temperature in most cases is a reaction of infection; it helps our body fight better. However, low-grade fever is frequently associated with some types of cancers.
- Shortness of breath- not very common with abdominal swelling but often an alarming symptom. It may say about some respiratory problem; it can happen due to pulmonary embolism.
- Pain in a lump- it is always a reason to worry. It is a cause to seek immediate medical attention if sudden pain arises in a bulge known to be a hernia. In a hernia, the intestine may become damaged and strangulated in a small opening in the abdominal wall, causing severe pain and life-threatening complication.
- Unexplained changes in a bowel movement in the form of constipation or diarrhea; frequent reasons are dietary changes and infections. But they may also point to a tumor or even cancer.
- Readily feeling full- even if a person did not have much food. Loss of appetite for a day or two may not be a reason to worry. However, if it happens continually, then it may be a sign of problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Quite often growing tumor or cancer may result in these changes.
One should never neglect abdominal swelling. Reasons for such swelling could be many, and several of the conditions could be dangerous for life. Fortunately, the hernia is rarely life-threatening. It causes swelling that would not pain, though may cause cosmetic changes and mild discomfort. Often such a swelling can be corrected by applying pressure. For those who do not want to go for surgery abdominal hernia belt may be a good option.
Bloating May Weaken Your Abdominal Wall
Bloating unlike swelling is rarely dangerous, but it is one of the most frequent complaints. At any given time, close to one-third of the adult population may be living with bloating. Untreated bloating may weaken the abdominal wall, increase the risk of a hernia and other health issues. Nonetheless, it often remains a neglected health issue.
Some of the underlying causes of bloating are:
- Abnormal gut microbiota- it plays a vital role in digestion, and gut health. It helps absorb many nutrients — changes in microbiota cause bloating for various reasons. It could be due to the inadequate breakdown of food in the intestine. It could also be due to gases produced by the wrong kind of microbes in the gut.
- Overgrowth of gut bacteria- results in overproduction of gases and thus bloating. It is common in irritable bowel syndrome.
- Intestinal gas accumulation- is not due to overproduction of gas or poor digestion. The more frequent cause is delayed gas transit. It means that gases formed due to digestive processes stay longer in the intestine, causing bloating and discomfort.
- Food intolerances- it is a vast subject, some may be intolerant to glucose while others to many carbs. A particular group of carbs called FODMAPs are specifically known to cause bloating. These are quickly fermented in the intestine releasing lots of gas.
- Constipation- will cause a feeling of heaviness in most cases. It also means straining when defecation. Chronic constipation may weaken the abdominal wall and increase the risk of a hernia.
- Sex hormones and gender- it explains why some gastrointestinal issues are more prevalent in women. Higher prevalence of IBS, bloating, may be a contributing factor to a higher incidence of a hernia in women.
Probiotics, dietary changes like eating less of Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAPs),practicing mindfulness (to reduce stress and anxiety), drinking plenty of water, consuming supplements rich in dietary fiber, are some of the natural ways to keep to intestine moving, and free from distention.
In some cases, abdominal support belts may help improve the strength of the abdominal wall. In case of a hernia, special belts can be worn if surgery is not an option.