This post is a response by a doctor to a question one of our community members asked.
Over the past couple of months, I noticed a swelling and tightness in the stomach area around my naval. It’s not painful but I know that it’s there. Any cause to be alarmed?
Dr Alejandro’s reply:
The symptoms you are describing are quite unspecific, but I will try to describe the main causes of these symptoms.
One of the main causes of swelling and tightness is constipation, which happens when our bowel movements are not regular, and the colon becomes full, it can cause a tightness in the lower part of the abdomen.
They can also be caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which can be detected early by the tightness feeling that can be accompanied or not by stomach pain. This chronic disorder is caused by digestive problems related to irregular bowel movements. Diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence are other symptoms that occur with tightness and swelling.
Another cause is ascites, which is the buildup of fluid in the peritoneal cavity due to several different diseases, including liver disease. The tightness of the stomach occurs as the stomach expands. No other symptoms may be present in the beginning of ascites.
Your symptoms can also be explained by muscle injury to the abdominal wall, as the result of trauma or injury. Stomach muscles can become strained or pulled from contact sports, accidents, or even with strenuous exercise. Serious cases may also involve internal injuries such as bruising of an organ.
One of the most concerning causes of your symptoms are abdominal masses/tumors. Swelling and tightness of the stomach, including around the naval area, can sometimes be the only signals of the presence of a mass, which can be in the form of a tumor, an abscess, or a cyst.
However, in order to obtain a proper diagnosis, a full physical examination needs to be carried out. Thereby, I strongly suggest that you see your primary care physician, who will start a full workup and may order an abdominal ultrasound (which is a great tool to assess the naval area).