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Ascites is when fluid builds up inside the abdomen. Ascites can occur when the liver is not working properly. Fluid fills the peritoneal cavity; the space between the lining of the abdomen and the organs. Symptoms can appear slowly or suddenly. It depends on the cause of the fluid buildup. They include sudden weight gain, a distended abdomen, difficulty breathing when laying down, diminished appetite, abdominal pain, and bloating.

Causes of Ascites

The primary cause of ascites is cirrhosis of the liver. Other causes are due to heart, kidney and liver failure.

Symptoms of Ascites

Symptoms of ascites is abdominal pain and bloating which can cause discomfort. You may also have shortness of breath and loss of appetite.

When should I contact my doctor?

IMMEDIATELY. Contact your primary physician, he will examine you and may refer you to a gastroenterologist. You may also be referred to a hepatologist (liver specialist).

Ascites diagnosis

Once you have contacted your physician, he or she will perform a physical examination. Your physician may suggest an ultrasound, CT or even a MRI. Any combination of exams will be determined between you and your physician.

Additional Information

Treatment for Ascites

Diet – restrict salt. Read the labels, no more than 2,000 ml per day
Medication – limit anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, etc.
Diuretics – Spironolactonel (Aldatone), Furosemide (Lasix)

This restriction of salt and the use of a diuretic will increase the frequency of urination, thus reducing the discomfort.

If this regimen is not effective, then the fluid can be extracted (drained) with a needle carefully inserted in the abdomen (peritoneal cavity). A few liters (up to 4-5 liters) can be removed safely.

Risks and Complications of Ascites

Infection indicates the cirrhosis has progressed. Ascites can be overlooked due to aging and not taking proper care of ourselves with our diets and excessive alcohol consumption. If you notice these symptoms, please call your physician immediately.