Have you been diagnosed with ascites? This condition is caused by fluid buildup in the abdomen and causes symptoms like pain and movement issues. This condition is sometimes known as “beer belly.” It can be a result of various causes like unhealthy diet or heavy alcohol drinking. Ascites indicates the late-stage liver disease known as cirrhosis. About 80% of people with cirrhosis experience ascites. It helps to know the symptoms, treatments, and causes of ascites so you’ll know how to deal with it effectively.
Aside from cirrhosis, there are other common causes of ascites, including some kinds of cancer.
All About Ascites
This health condition takes place when there’s fluid buildup in the abdomen. It can become serious that can result in pain. In fact, in some cases, the condition becomes so severe it can affect the patient’s ability to stay comfortable when moving around. Also, ascites can cause an infection in the abdomen. Other possible symptoms include fluid buildup in the chest/lungs, which can make it tough to breathe properly.
Ascites can cause a wide range of symptoms like:
Weight gain Leg swelling
Stomach swelling Bloating
Shortness of breath Feeling heaviness
Several of these symptoms can be linked to several different conditions. If you have just one then there’s no guarantee that you have ascites. However, if you have several symptoms you should certainly get it checked out since there’s a good chance you might be suffering from fluid buildup in the abdomen.
If your doctor thinks you might have this condition then he/she will conduct a physical exam. You’ll also be asked about the various symptoms you’re experiencing. Various tests might also be run including imaging tests and fluid samples.
Imaging tests can include CT scans or MRIs. These tests are run to look inside your abdomen. These tests provide radio waves, computer images, etc. so the doctor can determine the cause of your symptoms.
Another way of diagnosing ascites is through fluid samples. The doctor uses a long needle to collect a fluid sample from the stomach. Lab technicians then examine the fluid samples for signs of infections/diseases. The test might determine the ascites’ cause.
Various treatments can be used if you’re diagnosed with ascites. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Fewer fluids
- Low-salt diet
- Fluid removed via needle
- Water tablets
- Stop alcohol drinking
There’s also a procedure known as TIPS. This involves creating a connection between blood vessels in the liver. It helps to lower high pressure that’s producing the ascites.
What Are the Main Causes of Ascites?
Several different conditions can result in ascites like:
- Pancreas conditions
- Kidney disease
- Under-active thyroid
If you have any of these conditions, then there’s a chance you might suffer from ascites as one of the symptoms. Make sure to talk to your physician if you experience the condition’s symptoms to check if you indeed have ascites.
However, it’s worth noting that one of its causes are liver cirrhosis, heart failure, and some cancers. So if you have these conditions, you’re more likely to have ascites as a symptom. The types of cancer that can trigger ascites include liver, pancreas, stomach, lung, breast, and ovaries.
Here’s what happens. When there’s fluid retention, the result is pressure on the patient’s non-abdominal organs. It can frequently cause the patient to be uncomfortable. There are various other symptoms to watch out for, like abdomen/back pain, bloating, and problems moving/sitting.
Treatment is based on several factors. For example, it might require diuretics that are water pills/tablets. Diuretics can provide multiple benefits such as frequent urination, and help prevent future fluid retention.
They also might be ordered to lower their salt intake. It can provide several health benefits besides treating ascites.
One caveat is there are times when certain kinds of ascites are diuretic-resistant. It’s worth noting to check with your doctor about the best treatments to use. In some cases, there might be better ones besides diuretics.
There are various other possible treatments like chemotherapy and shunts (tubes). It’s critical to talk to your doctor about the best treatment based on your particular situation. He/She can help to sort things out based on various factors like the condition’s cause, your medical history, etc.
Top Tips for Ascites Prevention
Limit alcoholic drinking
If possible, try to ditch all alcoholic drinking. However, if you’re going to drink, then make sure to limit how much you consume. It’s worth noting that liver disease can be linked to heavy alcohol consumption, so it’s important to limit your intake if you want to reduce your risk of liver disease/cirrhosis.
Exercising can help your digestive system to work better and help to keep your body’s fluids flowing properly. That, in turn, can help to reduce the risk of ascites due to the lower risk of fluid buildup.
Lower salt intake
Limit your salt intake to about 1,500 mg or less per day. It is a critical step to help reduce the risk of ascites.
Based on the World Health Organization’s old guidelines for sodium intake, 99% of the world is consuming too much salt. While the guidelines have been adjusted it’s still important to minimize your salt intake. Besides table salt, you should also watch the sodium content of pre-packaged foods and restaurant foods.
Limit the use of NSAIDs
It includes aspirin, Advil, and others. The reason is that these drugs can negatively affect the kidneys, which can cause the body to retain salt/water. If you want to avoid those situations, only take NSAIDs in moderate amounts and as directed by your doctor.
Weigh yourself daily
It is an easy yet critical step to help reduce your risk of ascites. Make sure to contact your doctor if you put on 10+ pounds (4.5 kg) or 2+ pounds (0.9 kg) for three days in a row). It’s one thing to gain weight. However, it’s quite another thing if you put on weight quickly. In that case, there’s a higher chance it’s one of the causes of ascites.