What Is Ascites?
Ascites is the buildup of fluid in your belly, often due to severe liver disease. The extra fluid makes your belly swell.
Ascites Signs and Symptoms
Ascites is usually accompanied by a feeling of fullness, a ballooning belly, and fast weight gain. Other symptoms often include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in legs and ankles
- Loss of appetite
Ascites happens when pressure builds up in the veins of your liver and it doesn’t work as it should. These two problems usually are caused by another condition -- cirrhosis, heart or kidney failure, cancer, or an infection.
Ascites Risk Factors
Any disease that causes liver damage or scarring can make you more likely to get ascites. Common risk factors for ascites include:
- Viral infections like hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- Alcohol misuse
- Cancer in organs in the belly area
- Kidney failure
- Congestive heart failure
If they think you have ascites, the doctor will use a needle to remove fluid from your belly for testing. This procedure is called a paracentesis. It’ll help the doctor find out what’s causing your condition so they can treat it properly.
In most cases of ascites, the doctor will refer you to a liver specialist, who may discuss a liver transplant.
The doctor may prescribe “water pills,” also called diuretics, to help flush the extra fluid from your body.
Two of the most common diuretics are:
They both help your kidneys remove more sodium and water.
If changes in your diet and prescription diuretics don’t help, or your symptoms are severe, your doctor may have to use paracentesis to remove large amounts of excess fluid through a needle inserted into your belly. When you have this done, you have to follow a low-salt, low-liquid diet, otherwise the fluid will come back.
If these treatments don’t work, you may need a surgery to place a shunt in your liver or replace it altogether.