Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns
Swollen belly – What can help
Below are some of the things the healthcare provider may recommend and what families can do. Click on each for more information.
What their healthcare provider can do
They will likely perform a complete physical exam to sort out the cause. This will include measuring the person’s belly.
They will likely order blood tests to look for chemical imbalances in the blood. Other tests might include an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. They may also want to take a sample of the fluid.
Depending on the cause of the fluid buildup, they may prescribe medications such as diuretics or steroids. They may also prescribe something for constipation if they think the bowels are causing the swelling. Chemotherapy may also be recommended to reduce the size of a tumour if that is causing the fluid buildup.
They may remove the fluid by inserting a needle or catheter into the belly. The area will be numbed first with an anesthetic. This treatment may be done more than once. If it is needed frequently, a more permanent catheter might be recommended for the person.
Radiation may be recommended to shrink the size of a tumour if that is blocking the flow of fluids.
Surgery may be recommended; however, this will depend on the cause of the fluid blockage.
Seek medical attention immediately for either of the following: severe pain in the abdomen or severe shortness of breath.
Sometimes relaxation techniques can sometimes help. Depending on the cause of the fluid buildup, some techniques may work better than others. Talk to a healthcare provider who can suggest or approve some strategies. *See Complementary therapies and relaxation strategies PDF below.
Encourage the person to speak with a counsellor such as a social worker, psychologist, spiritual health provider. They can offer emotional support, education, and helpful practical suggestions.
What families can doHelpful resources