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Ascites is the condition that can lead to the accumulation of fluid in your abdomen. You may think you have consumed more food or gaining weight when you see the expanding waistline. It can urge you to take steps to lose weight. You even feel like cutting down your food intake and alcohol. Though cutting down cholesterol-rich food and alcohol is good for your health, it may not contribute to your current condition. It is the problem something entirely different from what you think. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor about the condition known as ascites. It can lead to expanding waistline due to fluid accumulation. The fluid can cause your belly to swell, making a visible protrusion. In most cases, liver problems can cause excess fluid. The fluid can fill the space between the lining of your abdomen region and the other organs. It is a condition that needs addressing as soon as possible. Without medical help, you can suffer several complications. Interested in knowing about the problem? Then, read ahead to get comprehensive information about the condition. It will help you take steps that can prevent the issue from affecting your life adversely.
What Is Ascites?
Normally, a sac or membrane holds the organs in the abdomen. The sac is known as the peritoneum. In a healthy person, the sac contains only a small amount of fluid. But, it can vary in men as well as women. Women can see the variation in the fluid levels depending on the menstrual cycle. When the fluid in the peritoneal cavity increases, it results in ascites. It is not a normal situation and needs medical attention. Different types of diseases can lead to fluid accumulation. So, the reason for fluid accumulation varies with the underlying disease.
The problem can cause extra fluid to accumulate in other areas of your body. It can lead to edema or swelling. So, the condition can result in edema in the chest cavity, legs, and feet. It can also cause fluid accumulation in the lungs and other vital organs. It can lead to severe distress and discomfort in your body. The severity of the symptoms depends on the location of the fluid accumulation in other areas of the body. So, you need to get treatment for the problem. Issues like cirrhotic ascites only have a two-year survival rate of only 50%. Therefore, understand the severity of the problem and get medical help.
Several diseases can trigger abnormal levels of fluid in the abdomen area. So, the reasons differ with the type of disease you suffer from. So, here are the common causes leading to the development of ascites:
It is the most common problem that results in fluid accumulation. The liver issues make the organ unable to produce the necessary protein to retain the fluid levels in your blood flow. It can also cause obstruction to flow through the liver encountering problem (scarred liver). In a healthy person, the water is held in the bloodstream due to the oncotic pressure. The proteins pull the water molecules and prevent them from leaking out of the capillary blood vessels. But, liver problems decreases the ability of the organ to manufacture the proteins. It can reduce the oncotic pressure, leading to the water leaking into surrounding tissues. So, the following liver issues can develop into the serious liver problem and subsequent fluid accumulation:
- Liver Cirrhosis
- History of alcohol abuse
- Hepatitis B or C
When the malignant cells in the body spread to the liver, it can lead to the problem. The cancerous cells spread to the peritoneum region, resulting in the direct leaking of the fluid. So, following cancer can result in accumulation of fluid:
Heart failure refers to the inability of the heart muscle to pump the required amount of fluid within the blood vessels. It can trigger several problems in the body. But, fluid backing in the vital organ is one of the main issues of heart failure. The excess fluid accumulation in the vital organs can result in the function failure. So, the water overload leaks into the peritoneal cavity leading to ascites.
The kidney damage in people can cause the leakage of protein into the urine. The protein cells influence the oncotic pressure. So, the leaking of protein cells can reduce the oncotic pressure, leading to an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area.
The different disorders affecting the pancreas can result in inflammation and subsequent fluid accumulation. Problems like chronic pancreatitis can lead to malnutrition. So, your body produces fewer protein cells. It results in the loss of oncotic pressure and results in ascites. Cancerous presence in the pancreas can also result in a fluid loss. The cancerous presence or infection can irritate the peritoneum. It causes the fluid to lead in the abdomen.
In women, problems to the ovaries can result in fluid accumulation. Many women detect ovarian cancer due to fluid accumulation as it has no initial signs or symptoms. The benign tumor also referred to as Meigs syndrome can trigger pleural effusion. Pleural effusion is the condition that results in the accumulation of fluids in the cavities surrounding your lungs. The tumor also referred to as fibroma can result in the fluid accumulation in the abdomen. It is due to the fact that the hard surface of the tumor can trigger irritation in the peritoneum region. So, it results in the leaking of fluid.
The low levels of thyroid hormones in your body can trigger ascites. Hypothyroidism is the problem occurring due to low thyroid function. It can trigger several changes in your body. So, you need to take immediate treatment to rectify the issue. Failure to take treatment can result in the accumulation of fluid. But, the problem resolves once you get treatment for the problem. When the thyroid levels become normal the fluid accumulation issue resolves itself.
Symptoms Of Ascites
The symptoms of fluid accumulation can occur gradually over a period of time or suddenly. It completely depends on the underlying cause that results in a fluid buildup. The symptoms that you see may not indicate a medical emergency. But, you need to see your doctor get proper advice to deal with the problem. Therefore, you need to look out for the signs like:
- Sudden weight gain
- A swollen/distended abdomen
- Trouble breathing while lying down
- Abdominal pain
- Diminished appetite
Remember, the condition can also indicate the presence of other health problem instead of ascites. Therefore, you need to consult your doctor to determine the actual problem resulting in fluid accumulation.
Complications Due To Ascites
The fluid accumulation itself may not pose a big threat. But, it can indicate some serious problem in your body. So, it indicates a potentially life-threatening condition, which needs medical help. If you ignore the problem, the associated issue can escalate and cause severe complication like:
When the abdominal cavity fills with fluid, you can experience severe pain. It is due to the pressure exerted by the fluid on your stomach region. So, it limits your ability to walk, eat or even perform your daily activities. The excess fluid can also cause trouble in breathing and cause you severe discomfort.
If any infection causes excess abdominal fluid buildup, then you suffer from the condition known as spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. The infection due to bacteria can trigger several other issues in your body. So, you can suffer from fever as well as pain. You need to see the medical professional as soon as possible to ensure proper diagnosis of the condition. By taking the sample of the fluid from the abdominal cavity, your doctor can assess it for a conclusive diagnosis. If your doctor detects spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, then you need to start antibiotic treatment. It is a serious condition that can result in some severe complication. So, you need to get antibiotic treatment through the IV. The condition also needs long-term treatment even after recovering from the problem. Therefore, you need to continue the oral antibiotics treatment to stop the infection from recurring.
Fluid Accumulation In Your Lungs
The condition referred to as hepatic hydrothorax can lead to the fluid accumulation in your lungs. The condition mostly results in fluid accumulation in the right lung. When you fail to undergo treatment for the issue, then you can suffer from a serious health complication. You can experience hypoxemia, the lack of oxygen in your blood. So, you can feel confusion. The health problem can also cause cough, chest discomfort, and shortness of breath. In most cases, you may need to undergo paracentesis to remove the excess fluid.
Liver cirrhosis needs prompt treatment. Else, it can lead to kidney problem and ultimately its failure. It is known as a hepatorenal syndrome. It a rare condition that leads to life-threatening complications. If you suffer from the condition it can lead to rapid deterioration of your kidney function. You need to undergo dialysis to prevent the advancement of the condition. But, it only offers a temporary reprieve. So, you need a liver transplant for long-term good results.
Diagnosis Of Ascites
Your doctor can several steps to diagnose the problem. When you first experience the swelling in your abdomen, get medical help. Your doctor can use different diagnostic techniques to check for the fluid presence and the underlying reason. The fluid accumulation can occur due to the problems with certain vital organs. So, your doctor suggests the following tests:
Fluid Sample Analysis
Your doctor can take a sample of fluid from the abdominal region using a needle. The fluid can unveil the presence of infection or cancer. It is an effective test to uncover the underlying cause of ascites.
The blood test in the lab can detect the presence of liver and kidney problems. The blood test can also help uncover other diseases like cancer.
The ultrasound of the abdomen can detect the fluid presence. It can also check the internal organs and their function. If the fluid accumulation occurs due to the problem in the liver or kidneys, then the ultrasound can provide information on the same.
It is the sophisticated imaging technique that gives a comprehensive view of the internal organs and the problem occurring in it. It produces several x-ray images that help your doctor make a positive diagnosis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses the magnetic field and radio waves to generate detailed images of your internal organs.
Treatment For Ascites
Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor can find the actual problem leading to ascites. So, your treatment plan encompasses the methods to overcome the root problem. The treatment focusses on overcome the health problem. Once your doctor detects the issue precisely, you get the right treatment plan. So, the following option can help you overcome the issue:
It is the most common treatment option used to treat the condition. The diuretics pills increase the salt amount in your body. So, it makes the water leave the body and reduce the pressure around the veins surrounding your liver. When you take the diuretics pills, your doctor will monitor the blood chemistry to avoid complications. You need to reduce your salt intake while undergoing the treatment. It is also advised to stop alcohol consumption as it can affect the treatment.
It involves using a long but thin needle to remove the excess fluid covering the abdomen region. Your doctor inserts the needle through the skin into the abdominal cavity. The fluid extracted is extracted to provide relief. You need to take antibiotics to prevent the risk of infection. It is the ideal treatment option when the diuretics do not work well. So, it is perfect for a severe or recurrent case of ascites. In late-stage cases of the disease, other option may not work properly. Therefore, paracentesis can offer your reprieve.
It is the treatment option for patients suffering from fluid accumulation due to cancer. The shunt or tube can remove the excess fluid from the abdomen. It is directed into the bloodstream to relieve from the pressure. During the procedure, your doctor inserts a needle into your vein in the neck. Then, the doctor places a shunt along your chest wall. The shunt connects your abdominal cavity to the vein in the neck. So, the fluid moves into the tube and enters the bloodstream.
In most cases, chemotherapy shrinks the cancerous cells. It controls the malignant cells from spreading to other areas. But, it can also stop the building up of fluids. Though you have no conclusive evidence available, your doctor can suggest chemotherapy. Your doctor can administer the chemotherapy drug into the abdominal cavity through a tube to see results.
In chronic cases, your doctor can implant a shunt permanently in your body. the tube can reroute the blood flow around your liver. If it does not work, then you need liver transplantation. It is recommended for patients who are at their end-stage of the liver disease. At this point, your liver stops its functioning completely. So, you need a new liver to sustain your life.
You cannot prevent the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen area. But, taking up some healthy habits to protect your liver and prevent the issue. The good habits can also avoid the problems to other vital organs that can trigger ascites. So, you can follow the pointers suggested below to ensure you remain healthy:
Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Excess alcohol consumption can result in liver problems. The drinking of alcohol can result in cirrhosis. So, the scarring of the liver can lead to excess fluid accumulation. Consume alcohol in moderation to prevent the problem.
Safeguard Your Health From Hepatitis
It is important to get vaccinated for hepatitis B. it prevents the disease of the liver resulting in fluid accumulation. Other forms of Hepatitis can spread through shared needles and unsafe sex. So, maintain caution while using intravenous drug use. You must also practice safe sex to avoid the problem.
Limit Use Of NSAIDs
You need to have awareness of the side-effects of the medication you take. So, always limit your use of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that you can get without a prescription. Excess use of medicines can affect your kidney health adversely. The abnormal kidney function can result in retaining salt and water in your body. So, you can see swelling in different parts of the body.
Follow a low-salt diet that can reduce your chances of water retention in your body. It is ideal for people who are at risk of water retention.
If you feel you are accumulating fluid in the abdomen region, then weigh yourself. You can record your weight daily to see for drastic changes. If you gain more than 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) within three days (2 lbs. per day), then see a doctor immediately. So, take an immediate step to understand the root cause of the problem and rectify the problem.
The prognosis of ascites depends entirely on the underlying condition causing the issue. You can manage the signs and symptoms associated with the problem successfully. But, the outlook of the problem depends entirely on finding and getting a cure for the underlying problem. While cirrhosis has no satisfactory cure, the other health issues have a proper cure. So, the fluid accumulation in the abdomen due to scarring of the liver depends on your reaction to the diuretics. In many cases, a liver transplant can improve the long term expectancy.View Article Sources