Background: Abdominal bloating and visible distention are common yet poorly understood symptoms. Epidemiological data distinguishing visible distention from bloating are not available. We aimed to evaluate the prevalence and potential risk factors for abdominal bloating and visible distention separately in a representative US population, and their association with other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). Methods: The validated Talley Bowel Disease Questionnaire was mailed to a cohort selected at random from the population of Olmsted County, Minnesota. The complete medical records of responders were abstracted; 2259 subjects (53% females; mean age 62 years) provided bloating and distention data. Results: The age and sex-adjusted (US White 2000) overall prevalence per 100 for bloating was 19.0 [95% confidence interval (CI), 16.9 to 21.2] vs 8.9 (95% CI, 7.2 to 10.6) for visible distention. Significantly increased odds for bloating alone and separately for distention (vs neither) were detected in females, and in those with higher overall Somatic Symptom Checklist (SSC) scores and higher scores of each individual SSC item. Further, females [odds ratio (OR), 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0 to 2.1], higher SSC score (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.8), constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (OR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.3 to 4.1), dyspepsia (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.1 to 3.2), and gastro-intestinal symptom complex overlap (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.7) significantly increased odds for distention over bloating alone. Conclusions: Bloating and distention are common and have similar risk factors; somatisation probably plays a role.
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