Ascites or Fluid Retention: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


One of the conditions that happen in the body is the accumulation of fluid in different parts of the body. It could come as a symptom of another disease condition. Or it could exist on its own. For instance, the accumulation of fluid in the lower extremities is known as edema. And edema can be a sign of another condition. Another one is the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen known as ascites. The thing with this condition is that it is accompanied by swelling. The swelling would usually develop over a few weeks. And it can also happen within a few days.

Ascites is a condition that is quite uncomfortable. It comes with symptoms such as breathlessness, tiredness, and nausea. Most times, the patient would feel full. Causes of this condition include heart failure, cancer, and liver disease.

Let’s take a look at some other causes, symptoms, and treatment of the condition.

Causes and Risk Factor of Ascites

The most common cause of this condition happens to be advanced cirrhosis or liver disease. The exact mechanism for the development of this condition is not yet fully understood. Experts say that the major contributor to this condition is portal hypertension.

Well, the basic principle in the accumulation of fluid in the body in other parts of the body is the same here. It is actually due to an imbalance of pressure in and outside the body.

Some other factors that can contribute to the accumulation of fluid happen to be water and salt retention.

Other causes of this condition are congestive heart failure and advanced kidney failure.

There are rare cases that increased pressure in the portal system is actually as a result of obstruction of the portal vessel.

Also, this condition can arise as a manifestation of cancer. This cancer is known as malignant ascites.

So we know now that the most common cause of ascites happens to be cirrhosis. So the risk factors of cirrhosis are the risk factors for ascites. Some common risk factors are hepatitis B and C and alcohol abuse for a long time. Other risk factors are malignancy, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.


Ascites is quite painful. And it comes with some other symptoms such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Breathlessness
  • Less hungry than normal
  • Constipation
  • Urinary urgency

Fluid retention in the abdomen causes pressure on the internal organs in the body. And this causes some discomfort to the person. At the same time, it can cause back pain, bloating, and abdominal pain. At the same time, it can cause difficulty in moving and sitting.

It’s necessary to see a doctor when you experience any of these symptoms. So that proper diagnosis and care would be given.


If the cause of the ascites is cirrhosis, then some lifestyle changes can help. You can reduce the amount of salt you are consuming. And then start taking water tablets known as diuretics. These tablets would prevent fluid retention because there would be increased excretion of urine.

Some conditions are resistant to diuretics. Below are treatment alternatives you can opt for:

  • Paracentesis: Used in resistant cases or cases with excess fluid. The doctor would insert a needle into the abdomen and then drain off the excess abdominal fluids. The treatment method aims to reduce abdominal pressure for the patient to feel a lot more comfortable.
  • Shunts: This method is used if ascites is a result of cancer. A shunt helps remove the fluid from the abdomen and passing it into the bloodstream.
  • Chemotherapy: This type of treatment would help with shrinking the cancer cell and even controlling it.

Well, the prognosis of this condition is dependent on a lot of factors. As of now, there is no satisfactory treatment for people with ascites that is resistant to water tablets. Shunts and paracentesis would help out. But it is uncertain that they would provide good health quality for a long time. The important thing is to see your doctor immediately you notice any abnormality in the body.

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