Tongues were wagging when rapper Lil’ Kim showed up at a NY Fashion Week event on Wednesday night with a distended abdomen. Kim’s appearance sparked rumors that she was pregnant. The 39-year-old rapper’s abdomen was so distended she had difficulty walking and had to be carried by a member of her entourage.
Abdominal distention means swelling or bloating of the abdominal cavity but not of the stomach itself. The swelling can be caused by overeating or swallowing large amounts of air, such as when chewing gum.
Abdominal distention in a female is often mistaken for pregnancy.
The abdominal cavity consists of two membranes between the wall of the abdomen (parietal peritoneum) and a balloon-like membrane (visceral peritoneum) that wraps around the stomach, small and large intestines (colon), kidneys, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, uterus, ovaries (in women), bladder, spleen, abdominal aorta, and other structures. The space between the membranes is filled with fluid that is excreted by the membranes.
The abdominal cavity is located below the chest and is separated from the chest by a thick membrane called the diaphragm. Any adverse medical condition that affects the organs within the abdominal cavity can cause swelling and bloating of the abdomen.
These conditions include ascites, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, ovarian or stomach tumors, indigestion, intestinal gas, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, ovarian cysts, etc.
Symptoms associated with abdominal distention include excessive flatulence (passing gas), belching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, constipation, or abdominal pain.
Another serious condition that can cause a swollen belly is ascites — a build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity that is usually caused by cirrhosis of the liver.
According to Medicinenet.com, approximately 85% of the ascites cases are thought to be due to cirrhosis of the liver. Other factors that may cause ascites are congestive heart failure, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), pancreatic cancer, and salt and water retention due to kidney failure.
The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is chronic (longterm) alcohol abuse.
If the fluid build up pushes against the diaphragm it can cause breathing difficulties. In addition to medications and a special diet regimen, doctors will perform a procedure known as a paracentesis to drain 4-5 liters of fluid off at a time to take pressure off the diaphragm.
Paracentesis is performed under sterile conditions. A needle is placed into the abdominal cavity and the fluid is drained off.
A liver transplant for advanced cirrhosis may be considered a treatment for ascites due to liver failure.
This has been your Medical Minute.
More Info On the Web
Ascites – Medicinenet.com
Ascites – MedlinePlus.com
Ascites: Pancreatic cancer
Complications of Cirrhosis: Ascites – Cleveland Clinic
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Photos: Splash News