Discussions By Condition: I cannot get a diagnosis.

Is this abdominal distention? (PICS inside)

Posted In: I cannot get a diagnosis. 0 Replies
  • Posted By: noonej
  • August 22, 2007
  • 07:48 PM

Hi, everyone!
Thanks so much for reading this thread. I need your help: I want to know if you think I have abdominal distention from the photos below.


It's VERY, VERY important that you are honest if you think I might have it. I'm a cross country runner (running about 50 miles per week), eat very nutritiously, and know I'm not fat, so in no way would you be hurting my body image by telling me. I just need a straight answer. For your reference, I'm not pushing out on my stomach. I don't walk around this way, but this is how it is when I'm not sucking it in. In one of the photos I'm pinching myself to show how much fat I can tug at. It's basically to show that I don't have a weight problem so you can rule that out. Also, I don't have a gas problem, so it's not just bloating. This photo shows how my stomach appears during a typical day. It often sticks out much more (especially at the end of the day), but I wanted to show what is most typical.

If you'd like some background about why I'm posting here then please continue reading. Be warned, though, I've attempted to make the Cliff Notes version of my case, but it's very complex and reads a bit long.

I'm a 24 year old from Oregon. I've been seriously ill for the past four years, but extensive testing has yet to yield a cause. My main problem is extreme difficulty breathing and it appears to be very closely associated with my stomach distention (for the sake of ease, I'm just going to assume that I have it for the rest of this post); the worse the distention, the harder it is to breathe. Among other things, the breathing difficulties have led to chronic fatigue, chronic insomnia, sunken eyes, depression, complete loss of hunger, and (most notably) major decreases in cognitive functioning. To elaborate on the latter for a second, I used to be quite intelligent (accomplished violinist and pianist, basically straight A's, etc.) but since becoming ill, I am hardly functional. Simple tasks have become difficult or impossible and often consume entire days. My enjoyment of books, music, and life is almost non-existent because I simply can't follow them and, therefore, can't grasp their meaning. My retention of knowledge has almost ceased, which is why I've hardly been able to take classes.

I very strongly believe the root problem of my illness is the stomach distention and feel that it's the key to a proper diagnosis. However, it's hardly been looked at. The reason why is because the first two years of my illness (which is when I had most of the testing done) were clouded by acute anorexia. It was initially believed that all I needed to do to feel better was put the weight back on. This turned out not to be true. As I mentioned earlier, I have completely lost my appetite. Actually, food and water often worsen symptoms. I have a constant pressure on my abdomen and it feels like trying to stuff something into an already overfull container. So, in some ways I felt worse after gaining the weight. Also, this was the first appearance of the stomach distention. It was MUCH worse than in these photos (10 extra pounds or so) and I had less fat, so I had this enormous belly with a six-pack on it.

When the weight gain didn't really help, I ended up having a bunch of tests conducted to see if something else was ailing me. However, during this time I relapsed on my eating disorder (recovering from anorexia is made quite a bit harder when food is actually making you feel worse) and unfortunately most of the tests ended up focusing on symptoms caused by the anorexia.

That was two years ago. It was decided then that I had psychiatric problems and I've been receiving meds and intensive psychotherapy for the past two years with zero improvement. Actually, in the last few months things have worsened and it was discovered that I have adrenal fatigue (which can result from physical or psychiatric illness) as well as being near hyponatremic, which is where the body's sodium levels are very low with respect to your fluid levels. After getting my sodium back in a healthy range, my abdominal distention flared up again, my insomnia worsened, my mood went down, and my mental functioning declined. It made me begin to think that something HAD been missed in the tests two years ago and that I should have the stomach distention looked at.

I want to have this investigated but there's two problems:
1. Doctors are reluctant to order more tests when I've already had so many done.
2. I believe people are afraid to tell me when they think I have distention, because of my former eating disorder.

For the record, I'm completely recovered from anorexia, have been for two years, and consider myself at zero risk of relapse. Also, while I did have a lot of testing done, it was really all over the map symptom-wise. As you can imagine, being tested for a big stomach was really the last thing on doctor's minds during this time. I believe the stomach distention was still present but was masked by the anoreixa. I also believe it's largely responsible for the anorexia as that's a common symptom of abdominal distention and goes hand in hand with the complete lack of hunger.

Anyways, like I said it's a long, complicated story. I don't care if I have a psychiatric condition or something related to the stomach distention. I just want to get better and I'm worried about overlooking this because two years of intensive psychiatric treatment have yielded nothing and I can't keep this up forever.

Again, thanks SO much for reading this. Please let me know what you think about the photos and if you think I should have the stomach distention checked out. Don't hesitate to ask if you have questions. :)


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