Definition

What is ascites?

Ascites is the accumulation of fluid (usually serous fluid which is a pale yellow and clear fluid) that accumulates in the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity. The abdominal cavity is located below the chest cavity, separated from it by the diaphragm. Ascitic fluid can have many sources such as liver disease, cancers, congestive heart failure, or kidney failure

How common is ascites?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

 

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of ascites?

Symptoms of ascites can appear either slowly or suddenly, depending on the cause of the fluid buildup.

Symptoms don’t always signal an emergency, but you should talk to your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Sudden weight gain
  • A distended (swollen) abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Diminished appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heartburn

Keep in mind that ascites symptoms may be caused by other conditions.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes ascites?

Ascites is most often caused by liver scarring. This increases pressure inside the liver’s blood vessels. The increased pressure can force fluid into the abdominal cavity, causing ascites.

Liver damage is the single biggest risk factor for ascites. Some causes of liver damage include:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis B or C
  • A history of alcohol use

Risk factors

What increases my risk for ascites?

There are many risk factors for ascites, such as:

  • Ovarian, pancreatic, liver, or endometrial cancer
  • Heart or kidney failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hypothyroidism

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is ascites diagnosed?

Diagnosing ascites takes multiple steps. Your doctor will first check for swelling in your abdomen. Then they’ll probably use imaging or another testing method to look for fluid, including:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Blood tests
  • Laparoscopy
  • Angiography

How is ascites treated?

Treatment for ascites depends on what’s causing your condition.

Diuretics

Diuretics are commonly used to treat this condition. They increase the amount of salt and water leaving your body to reduce pressure within the veins around the liver.

While you’re on diuretics, your doctor may want to monitor your blood chemistry. You’ll probably need to reduce your alcohol use and salt intake.

Paracentesis

This procedure uses a thin, long needle to remove the excess fluid. It’s inserted through the skin and into the abdominal cavity. There is risk of infection, so people who undergo paracentesis may be prescribed antibiotics.

This treatment is used most commonly when the ascites is severe or recurrent. Diuretics don’t work as well in such late-stage cases.

Surgery

In extreme cases, a permanent tube called a shunt is implanted in the body. It reroutes blood flow around the liver.

Your doctor may recommend liver transplant if ascites does not respond to treatment. This is generally used for end-stage liver disease.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage ascites?

Ascites can’t be prevented. However, you can lower your risk by protecting your liver with these healthy habits:

  • Drink alcohol in moderation. This can help prevent cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis B.
  • Practice safe sex. Hepatitis can be spread sexually.
  • Avoid intravenous drug use. Hepatitis can be transmitted through shared needles.
  • Be aware of the potential side effects of your medications. If liver damage is a risk, talk to your doctor about whether your liver function should be tested.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 31, 2017 | Last Modified: October 31, 2017

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