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A feeling of pressure in or around the stomach may be the result of any unusual bloating, enlargement or distention in the abdominal area.

This may be consistent with many conditions, such as certain diseases, infections, trauma, and even an abdominal obstruction. Depending on the source and severity, these symptoms may be localized or general, as well as acute or chronic. Severe and prolonged abdominal swelling may lead to the development of certain life-threatening conditions, including jaundice. Thus, symptoms such as these should not be ignored.

The causes of abdominal swelling may be divided into two basic categories: physiological and pathological. However, the conditions in both these categories may cause extremely unpleasant and, if prolonged, debilitating symptoms.

Physiological Causes Of Abdominal Swelling

Physiological conditions that may cause abdominal swelling include over-eating, swallowing air and regularly eating foods that are rich in fiber. All of the above mentioned practices result in the production and accumulation of gas in the digestive tract, which causes bloating and abdominal distention. Consuming too much liquid may also cause the abdomen to swell and protrude outward.

Eating carefully and steadily and chewing the food properly is the key to avoiding such physiological symptoms. Also, a balanced diet is essential; meals must have proportionate amounts of dietary roughage.

Pathological Causes Of Abdominal Swelling

Pathological abdominal swelling may be due to a number of different conditions. These may be digestive, gastrointestinal, nervous, urinary, endocrine or reproductive. Some of these conditions are discussed as follows:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a condition that often presents with many vague symptoms and thus goes undiagnosed. These may include alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation, reduced appetite, abdominal discomfort, and distention if there is accumulation of gas in the abdomen beyond a certain limit. No pertinent cause for IBS has been determined; however a genetic predisposition and problems with the immune system may be playing underlying roles.

Even though there is no potent cure for IBS, certain medications may be taken which will provide relief for the unpleasant symptoms and may reduce or prevent their onset as well.

Ascites

Ascites refers to the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. With progressive increase in the amount of fluid, abdominal discomfort and distention become more pronounced, along with nausea, vomiting and heartburn. Causes include liver scarring and cirrhosis, heart failure, appendicitis, kidney problems, and even cancer. Ascites may become life-threatening if the condition worsens.

Treatment for ascites includes administering diuretics to help relieve the pressure exerted by the fluid around the liver and abdomen. Another option is paracentesis; draining the fluid in the abdominal cavity via a needle. In extreme cases, surgery may be required as the last resort.

Infections of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract

Such infections are the result of bacterial, viral or parasitic invasions of the GI tract. Such an infection is usually the result of consuming food or water that has been contaminated with microbial toxins, due to unhygienic preparation, cooking, handling or storing conditions. Common symptoms include vomiting, abdominal cramping, intestinal inflammation and diarrhea. Treatment generally involves keeping the body hydrated and maintaining the osmotic balance of bodily fluids. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help the body fight the infection.

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