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What Is Acute Abdominal Bloating?

Acute abdominal bloating refers to a sudden and severe swelling of the abdomen due to the accumulation of gas or fluid.

It is a common symptom reported by patients from different disciplines of medicine, and nearly all patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience it [1].

Bloating and abdominal distention are often used interchangeably, but they involve different pathophysiological processes that are still not fully understood.

Although effective treatments are limited and not universal, several new therapies have become available in the past half-decade.

The most common causes of acute abdominal bloating include gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease. Other causes include bacterial overgrowth, lactose intolerance, and certain medications.

In some cases, acute abdominal bloating may be a sign of a more serious condition such as obstruction of the bowel or ovarian cancer. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if the symptoms persist or worsen.

Epidemiologic studies have determined that 15-30% of the general US population experience bloating symptoms, and IBS patients tend to have higher rates of bloating than the general population [1].

In one study, 96% of patients with IBS had bloating and 60% of them reported it to be their most bothersome symptom [2]. Bloated patients who didn’t have IBS also stated that they had reduced their daily activities to some extent due to their bloating symptoms.

Bloating is defined as subjective discomfort by the patient's sensation of intestinal gas, while abdominal distension is a visible increase in abdominal girth [3]. Burping and belching are other GI complaints that doctors should clarify with the patient since they generally develop due to swallowing of air, while bloating and abdominal distention don’t [1].

Treatment options for acute abdominal bloating depend on the underlying cause.

In some cases, lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods, exercising regularly, and managing stress may be helpful. In other cases, medications such as probiotics, laxatives, and antispasmodics may be prescribed [1].

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

In conclusion, acute abdominal bloating is a common and often bothersome symptom that can result from a variety of underlying conditions. While effective treatments are limited, several new therapies have become available in recent years. \