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Understanding Ascites: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Home > Blogs > Understanding Ascites: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Understanding Ascites: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Gastro Science | Posted on 08/28/2023 by Dr. Anil Kumar Jangid



Introduction

If you often experience shortness of breath, abdominal pain, or sudden weight gain, it would be best to diagnose a condition called ascites. It is a clinical condition determined by the fluid buildup within the abdominal area, causing swelling and discomfort in the abdomen. The condition usually develops due to several underlying health conditions.

Most commonly, it occurs due to liver cirrhosis, however, can be an outcome of heart failure, kidney disease, and various cancers. The extra fluid accumulation occurs because of a body’s fluid disturbance balance and increased pressure within the blood vessels. 

In this blog, we will cover a comprehensive discussion on the ascites and its related aspects. However, please note that the information given is based on research and we do not in any way interfere with doctor’s consultation. 

You can choose to book your appointment with one of the best gastroenterologists in Jaipur at Rukmani Birla Hospital. You will find the best and most experienced doctors here, delivering amazing patient care.

What are Ascites?

Ascites is a condition that occurs when the liver is not functioning properly, causing an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The doctor might involve diagnosis of this condition when there are more than 25 milliliters of fluid accumulated in the abdominal area. Fluid begins to fill up the space between the abdomen lining and organs when there is a malfunctioning of the liver. 

Ascites are known to be among the most common liver cirrhosis complications. It often leads to affecting more than 60 percent of the population with cirrhosis within ten years of their diagnosis, with a probability of a two-year survival rate that is fifty percent. It is recommended to consult the doctor immediately if you suspect that you might be suffering from ascites or notice any symptoms linked to it. 

What are ascite symptoms?

People who have ascites may experience different symptoms as it varies depending on the condition of person to person. Here are some of the common ascites symptoms experienced by the patient:

  • Discomfort in the abdominal area 
  • Sudden weight gain 
  • Feeling full even when the patient wants to eat more
  • Painless swelling in the abdominal area 
  • Breath shortness as pressure increases in the abdominal area 

If an individual has bacterial peritonitis, then here are symptoms of ascites that might be experienced:

  • Fever 
  • Confusion 
  • Abdomen tenderness 

Several ascites symptoms are particular to different conditions such as advanced cirrhosis, heart failure, cancer, and any other underlying conditions.

What are Ascites causes?

Ascites are an outcome of high pressure in some liver veins and low blood levels of protein referred to as albumin. Some illnesses might lead to severe liver harm causing ascites. Here are these conditions:

  • Cirrhosis due to genetic illnesses
  • Fatty liver illness 
  • Consumption of alcohol 
  • Chronic hepatitis C or B infection 

People who have any type of cancer in their abdomen are more likely to develop ascites. It involves appendix, colon, uterus, pancreas, liver, and ovarian cancer. 

Other conditions might lead to this problem such as:

  • Pancreatitis 
  • Congestive heart failure 
  • Liver veins clotting or portal vein thrombosis
  • Sac scarring and thickening like heart covering or pericarditis 

Kidney dialysis is also identified to be interlinked with ascites.

How are ascites diagnosed?

The doctor will begin ascites diagnosis by initiating a physical evaluation to identify if the main cause of swelling is because of fluid accumulation in the belly. The doctor might order the following tests for assessing the liver and kidneys: 

  • Urinalysis 
  • Abdomen ultrasound 
  • Electrolytes level test
  • 24-hour urine collection 
  • Liver function tests
  • Kidney function tests
  • Tests to detect bleeding risk and blood protein levels 
  • Abdominal CT scan 

The doctor might involve using a thin needle for withdrawing ascites fluid from the abdomen. Further, the fluid is tested for detecting the ascites cause and checking if the fluid is infected. 

What are the options available for ascite treatment?

Several options for ascite treatment are available. The doctor might decide the right option according to an individual’s condition. Here are some of the options commonly used for ascite treatment:

  • Sodium reduction- In this option, the doctor recommends limiting sodium intake. It is important to keep a count of sodium per day that is less than 2000 milligrams. 
  • Diuretics- These are water pills and a lot of people benefit from them. It assists in getting rid of the additional fluid in the body and reduces swelling. Some of the options might involve Lasix and Aldactone. 
  • Paracentesis- It is a procedure done by a doctor for excess fluid removal by inserting a needle into the abdomen. 
  • Shunts- The doctor might suggest shunt insertion to drain the fluid that is accumulated from ascites. 

Conclusion

Ascites is a condition that indicates harm to the liver. People suffering from liver cirrhosis are at the risk of developing ascites. However, with prompt treatment options and diet modifications, it is easy to manage the condition. If you suffer from ascites, make sure to limit salt intake as it is the primary recommendation by a doctor for ascites treatment. Get in touch with a doctor to understand a diet plan and options for treatment for ascites that might be working for you.

FAQs

 

How long can you live with Ascites?

After ascites diagnosis, the rate of survival is not more than five years. 

What stage of cirrhosis do Ascites occur?

Ascites occur often at the end-stage of cirrhosis following symptoms like nausea, vomiting, reduced mobility, etc. 

Can ascites be cured?

There is no cure available for ascites, but with lifestyle and diet changes one can reduce the risk of complications.