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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: lek. Katarzyna Banaszczyk

The appearance of the abdomen may indicate that the organs are not working properly. Enlargement of the abdominal circumference, widening of the veins on the surface of the abdominal cavity, or local bulging of the abdomen may in fact result from many ailments. What is ascites and what is the so-called jellyfish head? Find out more about abdominal abnormalities.

The appearance of the abdomencan be a symptom of various diseases. It may indicate harmless bloating as well as serious problems with the functioning of the digestive system. The diseases visible on the abdomen include: diseases of the liver, stomach, pancreas, intestinal problems and much more. Not only the size of the abdomen may indicate the disease process, but also any changes in the navel or abdominal bulge. Find out what diseases can be read in the belly.

A bloated stomach - what could it mean?

Bloating may only be a subjective symptom as reported by the patient, but can also be identified on physical examination as enlargement of the abdominal circumference.

Patients usually describe gas as a feeling of gas in the intestines or a feeling of abdominal distension. Bloating definitely more often affects the female sex.

Ailments that are often accompanied by gas are:

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)- this is a chronic disease of the intestine that often coexists with psychological disorders and is manifested by a change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation), as well as pain belly,
  • functional dyspepsia- a very common disorder, also manifested by a feeling of fullness, nausea and abdominal pain,
  • motor disordersresulting from the coexistence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or systemic scleroderma. It should be remembered that motor disorders can also be caused by some medications (e.g. opioids, which are strong painkillers),
  • psychiatric disorders , including anxiety syndromes and depression,
  • lactose intolerance,
  • pancreatic exocrine insufficiency(deficiency of enzymes produced by the pancreas),
  • sometumorsthat handicapsignificant digestive passage,
  • celiac disease(celiac disease) - the essence of this disease is the destruction of the small intestine wall as a result of eating gluten-containing foods. In genetically predisposed people, under the influence of gluten, antibodies are produced, leading to damage to the wall of the small intestine,
  • gastrointestinal infections- e.g. giardiasis.

Widened veins on the stomach and liver disease

Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition whose essence is the destruction of the normal parenchyma of the liver. The natural tissue of the liver becomes fibrotic, which means that normal glandular tissue in the liver is replaced by connective tissue.

As a result, the liver loses its metabolic functions, and what's more, bile flow is impaired, which results in the development of portal hypertension.

It should be emphasized that portal hypertension is the most common complication of liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver very often results from alcohol abuse, but it can also be a consequence of chronic hepatitis (for example in the course of hepatitis B or hepatitis C).

Increasing the abdominal circumference - it's not just about flatulence

An enlarged abdominal circumference may also indicate an ascites, i.e. an accumulation of an abnormal amount of fluid within the peritoneal cavity (under normal conditions, this cavity contains about 50-75 ml of serous fluid).

It is worth being aware that ascites becomes visible with greater advancement. First degree ascites is visible only during an ultrasound examination of the abdominal cavity - it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Ascites differs from abdominal distension mainly in that when the patient is lying down, his abdomen bulges to the sides, which is related to the movement of fluid in the peritoneal cavity.

When there is a large amount of fluid in the patient's peritoneal cavity, the abdomen becomes very tense and hard, which is known as the barrel-shaped abdomen.

Soreness during palpation of a patient with ascites may indicate a developing inflammation.

Ascites - causes

It is also worth mentioning about diseases associated with ascites. The following should be mentioned here:

  • the aforementioned cirrhosis of the liver,
  • heart failure,
  • pancreatitis,
  • malignant neoplasms of the ovary,
  • endometriosis - the presence of the uterine mucosa outside its place of physiological occurrence, i.e. outside the uterine cavity,
  • infection within the peritoneum - vincluding tuberculosis,
  • peritoneal neoplasms - primary, like metastatic, originating from another organ,
  • sarcoidosis - a disease of not fully explained etiology, the essence of which is the formation of granulomas. This disease can affect almost all organs and tissues, although it mainly affects the lungs and lymph nodes,
  • hypothyroidism.

The presence of an excessive amount of fluid in the peritoneal cavity can also cause unpleasant symptoms such as a feeling of distension in the abdomen and sometimes even stomach pain. High ascites can lead to a diaphragm misalignment, resulting in difficulty breathing and shortness of breath.

Raising the abdominal wall - enlarged liver

A liver of normal size should not be palpable on physical examination of the patient. In advanced cases, an enlarged liver is shown asbulging of the abdominal wall . Diseases in which we may be dealing with an enlarged liver include:

  • viral hepatitis,
  • systemic infections,
  • liver abscesses,
  • heart failure (right ventricular),
  • biliary obstruction,
  • haemochromatosis - a disease whose essence is the excessive accumulation of iron in the body,
  • Wilson's disease - the essence of this disease is a disorder of copper secretion along with bile, which predisposes to its accumulation in the liver and damage to this organ,
  • liver tumors - both primary (hepatocellular carcinoma) and metastatic,
  • sarcoidosis,
  • drug-induced liver damage.

Raising the abdominal wall - enlarged spleen

As with the liver, the spleen should not be palpable on the abdomen.

Significant enlargement of the spleen may be seen as a bulging of the abdominal wall on the left side. The causes of spleen enlargement include:

  • tuberculosis, brucellosis, infective endocarditis (IE),
  • infectious mononucleosis, cytomegaly - being viral infectious diseases,
  • chronic myeloid leukemia,
  • lymphomas,
  • some autoimmune diseases - for example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or Still's disease,
  • cirrhosis of the liver,
  • spleen cysts and abscesses,
  • blood clot in the splenic vein,
  • tumor metastases to the spleen,
  • primary tumors of the spleen - i.e. those originating from this organ,
  • anemiahemolytic.

Convexity around the navel - what can it mean?

The bulging of the abdominal wall near the navel may be a peri-umbilical hernia. This hernia is more common in the female sex, and is predisposed to it by numerous births and obesity.

Both labor and abnormally high body weight weaken the anterior abdominal wall, which promotes the formation of hernias.

The umbilical hernia is treated surgically - this is necessary because there is a risk of complications such as gastrointestinal obstruction and bowel strangulation - which may result in intestinal wall necrosis.

To sum up, any abdominal symptoms that disturb us should definitely be reported to a doctor. It is the doctor who will decide whether further diagnosis of disturbing changes is necessary.

We should not underestimate any bulges in the abdomen, as they may in fact turn out to be hernias that require treatment.

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