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What is an Enlarged Stomach?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An enlarged stomach is a stomach that is larger than normal, which can be caused by a number of different reasons. It is important to distinguish between enlargement of the stomach and abdominal bloating. Bloating can involve the stomach, but it may also affect the intestines and can be caused by things like ascites. If the stomach or abdomen is causing distress, the person should seek medical attention, as it may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem.

The stomach is a highly elastic organ that is designed to expand and contract naturally. Some enlargement of the stomach can be observed when it is full, for example, but if it remains persistently enlarged, it is a sign that there is a problem. The stomach can become enlarged if it cannot empty its contents into the intestines as normal. Stomach contents may calcify if the problem persists, and the patient usually feels very uncomfortable and may develop nausea and vomiting.

Ulcers and chronic irritation can also sometimes lead to an enlarged stomach. Sometimes, a thickening of the stomach wall in response to irritation causes the organ to get bigger, and people may also experience delayed emptying of the stomach because of inflammation. A number of disease processes can be linked to stomach enlargement as well, and testing is usually necessary to find out why the patient's stomach is enlarged.

People can also develop gastric distension, in which the stomach is filled with gas. This commonly happens because of air swallowing or as a result of a medical procedure that introduces air into the stomach. The condition can be dangerous because there is a risk that the stomach contents will end up in the lungs. Recommended treatment involves turning the patient on his or her side and gently pressing the stomach to encourage the gas to vent.

Sometimes, a fetal ultrasound reveals an enlarged stomach. This is not necessarily a cause for concern, but it is noted as a finding because the ultrasound technician or doctor wants to take note of anything that differs from normal fetal development. If a medical professional says that a developing fetus has this condition, the parents should ask about the implications of that diagnosis and whether or not additional testing should be done to learn more. It's important to remember that fetal development can be naturally variable, and something "abnormal" is not necessarily something wrong.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon994400 — On Feb 06, 2016

My suggestion folks! Have a gastroscopy, and a biopsy of your stomach. Mine showed I lack the enzyme which breaks down sugars found in the following: fruit, wine, soft drinks, ice cream, sweets, carbohydrates, milk. meaning, fructose, lactose, sucrose. Good luck!

By anon950049 — On May 08, 2014

I am an alcoholic. I drink more than a bottle of wine a day. But until right now and this post -- or this realisation -- I have been fairly 'functional', but it seems that the booze is coming home to roost.

About four months ago I had a strange feeling in my chest, so I went for an MRI and to a local stomach doctor to be have my stomach photographed and inspected with an endoscope.

The stomach doctor (well respected with a great modern endoscope) took loads of photos down as far as my duodenum, and said that while I had no sign of ulcers or cancer, I had the beginnings of GERD (the sphincter? between my stomach and esophagus was not quite closing as fully as it should) and in the same region, signs of inflammation and infection of the stomach wall.

I asked for a test for pylori bacteria, which came back negative.

The chest MRI came back second saying that while my lungs appear okay, I have an enlarged front stomach wall and was told to "go and see a stomach doctor."

I phoned the stomach doctor again, and he repeated his diagnosis, saying "Yes, your inflammation was visible, as mentioned," but he prescribed nothing. Nor did he mention my boozing, which I had told him about, but recommended I ate less sweet food (which I eat little of).

I guess that rules out Ménétrier's disease, and stomach cancer, since the doctor would have seen them. But perhaps a secondary lymphoma from liver cancer might have done the trick? That seems a little unlikely at the present time due to the fact that I appear to have quite a lot of energy. My guess is that people with metastatic cancer tend to feel a certain drain on their aerobic exercise ability, which does not seem to be happening, right now, yet.

Anyway, I have kept boozing, and I can feel that my stomach wall is enlarged, inflamed. I feel very sure. I have yet to get the typical GERD symptoms but I bet they are in the cards. I guess that if not already, then soonish my inflamed and enlarged stomach will turn ulcerous and or cancerous.

Tonight I ate loads of vegetables before I started a bottle of wine. That helps.

I am not a doctor, but I would like to suggest that alcoholism, on an empty stomach, can lead to stomach inflammation, and an enlarged stomach wall. I also suggest that these can lead to ulcers and cancer.

But my situation may be worse. Metastasized liver cancer perhaps.

Keep well.

By serenesurface — On Feb 21, 2013

Some people have stomach reduction surgery to lose weight. Does the stomach enlarge and return to its normal size after some time post-surgery?

By pinkandred — On May 05, 2011

My mother had surgery a year ago and she developed a bloated stomach. The doctor said she had what they call ascites, which means build up of fluid.

The doctor said it would drain away on its own over time. She was really swollen and inflamed after the surgery, so I guess it is no surprise that there was a build up of fluid.

By jessica500 — On May 05, 2011

I had a neighbor a few years ago who had an enlarged stomach. People kept saying he had just gained weight, but it seemed he did it very, very fast to me.

Later on we found out he had stomach cancer. He was having severe stomach pain and went to the doctor. He was diagnosed with cancer and began treatments for it. I guess you never know what can happen. It certainly taught me that a distended belly that comes on quickly should be checked out.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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