Ascites involves the buildup of fluid within the abdomen. It typically occurs once the liver ceases to function normally. The fluid occupies the space amidst the lining of the abdomen and the organs. If the symptoms of ascites are present, a doctor must be consulted right away.
What are the causes and risk factors?
Ascites is generally brought about by scarring of the liver. This result to increased pressure within the blood vessels of the liver. The increasing pressure forces fluid into the abdominal cavity, resulting to ascites.
Damage to the liver is one of the main risk factors for ascites. Some of the causes of liver damage include:
- Hepatitis C or B
- History of alcohol use
Other conditions that increases the risk for ascites include:
- Ovarian, liver, pancreatic or endometrial cancer
- Heart or kidney failure
What are the indications of ascites?
The symptoms of ascites can arise slowly or abruptly depending on the cause for the accumulation of fluid. The symptoms do not always indicate an emergency, but a doctor must be consulted if the following are present:
- Distended abdomen
- Abrupt weight gain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty breathing when lying down
- Abdominal pain
- Diminished appetite
The treatment for ascites is based on the underlying cause.
- Diuretics – these are widely used to manage the condition. These medications work by increasing the amount of salt and water that leaves the body to lower the pressure inside the veins around the liver.
- Paracentesis – this procedure involves using a thin, long needle to get rid of excess fluid. It is inserted via the skin and into the abdominal cavity. This is used for severe or recurrent cases.
- Surgery – in severe cases, a permanent tube or shunt is implanted in the body which reroutes the blood flow around the liver. The doctor might suggest liver transplant if ascites does not respond to treatment.