What Is an Enlarged Stomach?

An enlarged stomach can cause bloating.
An illustration of a human stomach.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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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.


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Post 3

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

Post 2

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.

Post 1

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.

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