Ascites is defined as increased fluid in the peritoneal cavity. Various conditions can lead to the accumulation of fluid that leads to leakage into the peritoneal cavity.
In most cases, ascites is brought about by liver disease and inability of the organ to release enough protein to hold fluid in the bloodstream as well as a blockage in the flow via the scarred cirrhotic liver.
What are the causes?
- Cirrhosis – this is a form of liver disease where the damaged tissues are replaced by scar tissue.
- Acute liver failure – this is another cause of ascites. This might be due to an acute form of injury to the liver cells including detrimental reactions to certain medications
- Budd-Chiari syndrome – this is brought about by obstruction of the hepatic veins which results to a triad of abdominal pain, ascites and hepatosplenomegaly.
- Cancer – especially if it has metastasized or spread to the liver
What are the signs?
- Swelling of the abdomen to accommodate the buildup of fluid
- Shortness of breath
- Fullness or heaviness in the abdomen once the amount of fluid increases
- Leg swelling, bruising, enlargement of the breasts and confusion
- If due to heart failure, there is shortness of breath and leg edema
Management of ascites
Among individuals with liver disease, it is vital to avoid alcohol which is an essential step in reducing further damage to the liver. Additionally, medications that contain acetaminophen must be reduced since they require metabolism in the liver.
The presence of excess fluid in the abdomen can result to discomfort and shortness of breath. The treatment is based on the root cause, the rate of fluid buildup and how the symptoms affect the individual.