What Are the Causes of Severe Abdominal Distension?

Causes of severe abdominal distension include abnormal levels of small intestine bacteria, increased curvature of the spine's lumbar region, and too much intestinal gas, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. An imbalance of microorganisms in the bowel, which can result from taking antibiotics, is another cause of abdominal distension. Food intolerance and increased perception and sensitivity of activity in the digestive tract are additional possible causes.

Ascites may cause severe abdominal distension, explains Healthline. Ascites occurs when abdominal fluid builds up; the condition is typically caused by liver problems such as cirrhosis. Less common causes of severe abdominal distension include pancreatitis, gallstones, an ovarian cyst, weight gain and intestinal blockage.

Excessive intra-abdominal fat, an inappropriately contracted diaphragm and flabby abdominal muscles may also cause abdominal distension, notes the National Institutes of Health. Up to 25 percent of healthy people experience bloating, which is a sign of abdominal distension.

A doctor may discover the cause of severe abdominal distension via medical tests and procedures, including abdominal X-rays, an upper endoscopy, gastric-emptying tests, a barium swallow and stool analysis, advises the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. Depending on the cause of the abdominal distension, the doctor may prescribe medication or recommend supplements to relieve the symptoms. Options include probiotics, antispasmodics, rifaximin, prokinetics and antidepressants.