Read below about tense abdomen, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your tense abdomen from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Belly tightness

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10 Potential Tense Abdomen Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Viral (Norovirus) Infection

    Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These viruses cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Usually resolves within 2-3 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    severe abdominal pain, throbbing headache, severe headache, tarry stool, vaginal bleeding, alertness level change
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Viral (Rotavirus) Infection

    Rotavirus is a virus that causes an infection of the gut, known as gastroenteritis. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and fever. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Symptoms resolve on their own within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (rotavirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (rotavirus) infection:
    constipation, tarry stool
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Compartment Syndrome

    Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.

    Prognosis is highly variable after surgery and depends on how rapidly you are treated.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  4. 4.Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

    Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a condition that causes pain or discomfort in the stomach after eating. In some cases, indigestion also causes heartburn, burping, and nausea. Indigestion or dyspepsia is a very common complaint. Every year, about 1 in every 4 people will experience an episode of dyspepsia, of which most cases do not have a serious underlying cause.

    These symptoms are likely to resolve, if they persist you should discuss this with your primary care physician.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, stomach bloating, dyspeptic symptoms, bloating after meals, vomiting
    Symptoms that always occur with indigestion (dyspepsia):
    dyspeptic symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with indigestion (dyspepsia):
    vomiting (old) blood or passing tarry stools, rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, fever
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  5. 5.Normal Variation of Constipation

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, or not getting enough exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, constipation, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with normal variation of constipation:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with normal variation of constipation:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  6. 6.Ovarian Cyst

    Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovarian tissue. It can be completely normal (it's estimated that 15% of post-menstrual women have these cysts with no issues), infectious, or cancerous. Birth control pills have no effect on benign ovarian cysts.

    Most benign cysts resolve spontaneously, but some may be persistent.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, lower abdominal pain, lower back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Acid Reflux Disease (Gerd)

    Acid reflux disease, also known as GERD, occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach come back up into the esophagus. The most common symptoms are heartburn and regurgitation.

    With proper treatment, symptoms may be relieved within days & at most several weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, sore throat, pain below the ribs, cough with dry or watery sputum, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Ovarian Torsion

    The twisting, or torsion, of the ovary around its surroundings. This may result in loss of blood to both the ovary and the fallopian tube. When diagnosed, this condition is considered an emergency and requires immediate surgery.

    Patients are generally discharged home within 24 hours of surgery in uncomplicated cases. The patient follows up with the surgeon 1 week after surgery, and additional follow-up is regulated as needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, nausea, moderate abdominal pain, loss of appetite
    Symptoms that never occur with ovarian torsion:
    diarrhea, pain below the ribs, mild abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Acute Gastritis

    Acute gastritis is the sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, and/or upper abdominal pain that's caused by inflammation of your stomach lining. If it doesn't go away, this can become an ulcer. Causes include taking a medication that affects the stomach, an infection by a bug called, "H. Pylori", or your immune system reacting to yourself.

    Prognosis is great with the appropriate treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, nausea, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, mild abdominal pain
    Symptoms that never occur with acute gastritis:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Lactose Intolerance

    Lactose intolerance is the inability to fully digest a sugar (lactose) in milk. This results in discomfort, gas, and maybe even stool changes shortly after ingesting a dairy product.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), stomach bloating, constipation, diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Tense Abdomen

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our tense abdomen symptom checker to find out more.

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Tense Abdomen Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced tense abdomen have also experienced:

    • 12% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 6% Nausea
    • 5% Stomach Bloating
  • People who have experienced tense abdomen were most often matched with:

    • 13% Viral (Norovirus) Infection
    • 7% Viral (Rotavirus) Infection
    • 1% Compartment Syndrome
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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