Ascites – Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Pictures

Ascites occurs when the abdominal cavity is filled with fluid. This fluid accumulation is not supposed to occur unless the person is suffering from some kind of chronic and systemic disease. This condition is a symptom rather than a disease and its occurrence is an indicator of a serious medical disorder. Those who are afflicted often feel abdominal swelling and abdominal heaviness, including breathing difficulties.

Suspecting individuals should visit the doctor for proper diagnosis as the presence of ascites is a forewarning of an underlying serious health problem. It is for this reason that the doctor will conduct several tests to figure out the exact cause before starting on the appropriate treatment. Early detection and treatment will support a better prognosis and prevent further complications.

Sponsored link

Cause of Ascites

Fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity should not happen under normal and healthy conditions. The organs in the abdomen are kept in the peritoneum and it should not contain any fluid. With oncotic pressure, water molecules stay within the bloodstream and protein works in preventing water leakage into the surrounding tissues.

A lot of things could trigger fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity and one of the main reasons is liver disease. The liver excretes protein to prevent water from leaking into the surrounding tissues as well as maintain normal oncotic pressure. A dysfunctional liver cannot maintain normal oncotic pressure and produce enough protein, resulting in fluid leakage to the abdominal cavity. Liver diseases such as liver cancer, cirrhosis, acute liver failure, hepatitis and Budd-Chiari Syndrome have been known to cause fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity.

Several systemic disorders and conditions could also cause fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, and some of these are:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Colon cancer
  • Constrictive pericarditis
  • Protein-losing enteropathy
  • Portal vein thrombosis
  • Kidney dialysis

Ascites – Symptoms

It is hard to recognize fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity during its early stages because sufferers exhibit mild to no symptoms at all if the fluid buildup is still slight or little. Early phase of fluid build-up is not enough to cause systemic changes that give rise to unpleasant symptoms. Besides, the manifestations differ in every individual depending on the underlying medical condition. Even so, sufferers share some common symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal swelling

This usually occurs as the body adjusts to give room for the fluid buildup. Abdominal swelling compresses the diaphragm which likewise hinders proper breathing.

  • Abdominal heaviness

A patient may feel abdominal heaviness due to the huge amount of fluid that has accumulated in the abdominal cavity.

  • Leg swelling

Aside from the abdomen, fluid may also be retained in the legs resulting in leg swelling. This is often the case with liver cirrhosis.

  • Shortness of breath

This manifestation is also common among sufferers, most especially if the underlying cause is heart failure. It has been found to worsen when the patient engages in some form of activity or even lying down flat.

  • Other symptoms

Fatigue, weight loss, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, mental confusion, fever, gynecomastia and easy bruising are some of the symptoms common to those who have ascites.

Suspecting individuals should never delay visiting a doctor, especially if the abdominal swelling is accompanied by abdominal pain and fever. The condition could result in kidney and heart failure, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and coma.

Incidence of Ascites

The condition is quite common among people suffering from cirrhosis. Around 80% of sufferers have cirrhosis and 10% have cancer. Those who are suffering from some kind of liver problems and systemic diseases will most likely develop this condition as well.

Diagnosis of Ascites

To determine the cause of fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, the doctor will need to conduct a series of tests. Diagnosing the condition often involves the following:

  • Physical exam

The doctor will look for the physical manifestations of the condition like abdominal swelling and heaviness. He/she may ask the patient about other symptoms like breathing difficulties, leg swelling and abdominal pain. The doctor may also touch the swollen abdomen and look for a wave-like action. The abdomen should also feel firm when touched.

  • Medical history

The physician will also check the patient’s medical history, if he/she has been suffering or had been treated with chronic medical conditions.

  • Tests

Diagnosing the condition also involves conducting imaging tests like CT scan or ultrasound which will confirm the condition. Paracentesis as well as complete blood count may also be done to check the patient’s liver enzymes, blood urea nitrogen, amylase and creatinine.

The chances of recovery differ in every patient, depending on the underlying cause. Those with cirrhosis have 50% chances of living up to 3 years while those suffering from refractory ascites are given 1 year to live.

Ascites treatment

Treatment is designed individually, based on the underlying medical condition. It is aimed towards removing the fluid and preventing its recurrence. Treatment may involve:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Diuretics
  • Paracentesis
  • Reducing intake of sodium
  • Avoiding alcohol

Ascites pictures


Sponsored link
Filed in: Diseases and Conditions Tags: , , , , , , ,

Get Updates

Share This Post

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Submit Comment

© 2018 See Ya Doctor. All rights reserved.