You may not think that there is any problem when your waistline starts expanding. You may think that you have to lose some weight. But have you thought about your drinking habit? Do you know that it may be the reason why your waistline is expanding? Alcohol and other stressors can damage your liver (cirrhosis) and cause many other complications, including ascites. Cirrhosis of the liver with ascites could be very problematic to deal with. It causes a buildup of excess fluid in your belly, making it swell up and protrude. Aside from the ballooning belly, ascites gives a full feeling and rapid gain of weight, among many other things.
What exactly is ascites? It occurs when there is a buildup of pressure in your hepatic (liver) veins. As such, the vein stops working the way it should. It is usually a complication of cirrhosis. However, some other conditions can cause ascites. They include infections, cancer, heart failure, and kidney failure. Now, the pressure buildup blocks the flow of blood to your liver. Over time, this prevents your kidneys from doing its job of eliminating excess salt out of your body. As salt stays back in your body, it retains more water. This water retention is what eventually causes ascites. What do people with cirrhosis of the liver with ascites deal with? Read on to find out.
Symptoms of Cirrhosis of Liver with Ascites
Some experts argue that ascites is a symptom. But then, one of the main signs of ascites is that the size of your belly increases. As such, your clothes may start getting tight, and your belt size would likely increase too.
The signs that follow this increased belly size depend on the fluid volume. If the volume gets very large, there will be a great deal of discomfort. That would make your belly feel quite heavy. It may affect your posture. You may have to adjust how you walk and how you stand.
Remember that as your belly increases, your overall body weight will also increase.
Another thing that may happen with this fluid build-up, is that it may exert pressure on your bowel. It will affect your appetite and make you eat less and probably become constipated. You may also experience indigestion (burning sensation at the center of your chest).
A sick feeling (nausea) and vomiting may also occur. There pressure buildup in your belly may mount pressure on your lungs or cause fluid to accumulate there. It can cause short breath, especially at times when you lie flat.
If your belly gets big enough, you may start becoming embarrassed about your appearance. In that case, you may find it hard to make public outings. It will affect your participation in enjoyable activities and social gatherings.
Sometimes, ascites could be painful, especially causing pain in your back and abdomen. It can also cause tiredness and urinary urgency.
There are also cases where the ascites may develop complications, such as an infection in the fluid. If this happens, you may get feverish and feel sick. This can be quite dangerous and lethal. So you must contact your doctor immediately if you notice signs of infection.
If you notice that fluid is beginning to buildup in your belly, you should talk with your physician about it. Your doctor will recommend certain lifestyle changes. He may also change your treatment approach or drain off the fluid.
How to Treat Cirrhosis with Ascites
There are various ways to treat ascites. They include dietary and lifestyle adjustments, as well as drugs and different medical procedures.
Ascites itself has no direct treatment. The treatment often depends on the initial condition that caused ascites. So if you have ascites because of cirrhosis, your goal should be to treat cirrhosis.
One major step would be to quit drinking alcohol. That would prevent fluid accumulation and improve your response to medical treatment.
Another important change you must make is to adopt a no-added-salt diet. You can consult with a dietitian to ask for help on this. A dietitian can tell you what kinds of food will be good for you. If your ascites is mild, you may be able to control it just by reducing your salt intake.
But then, if reducing your salt intake does not work or if the ascites is quite large, you may have to use diuretics. These are otherwise known as water pills. They help to get rid of excess fluid from all parts of your body, including your belly. They increase urine production in your body.
All the measures above are quite simple. But sadly, there are times when these simple methods will not be enough to control or treat ascites. In such cases, you would need further treatment, called Paracentesis.
Paracentesis involves draining out the ascitic fluid with a special tube. You cannot do this by yourself. Healthcare experts are trained to do it safely and effectively. They would first numb the skin at the area where the tube will be inserted. Then, they will insert the tube and drain off the fluid.
A paracentesis may provide temporary relief. Oftentimes, except cirrhosis is resolved, the fluid would accumulate again after a while. As such, it is not a once for all procedure. You may have to repeat it over and over.
Other Things to Note
Refractory ascites occurs when a person’s ascites does not respond to medications or a low-salt diet. This will necessitate frequent paracentesis. There may also be a need for eventual liver transplantation in this case.
Also, if you are taking diuretics, you should do routine blood tests regularly. This is to monitor your kidney function and salt levels. Diuretics can negatively impact kidney function. So you have to watch closely if you are taking diuretics to be sure that your kidneys can adjust. At the end of the day, cirrhosis of the liver with ascites can be managed. The prognosis depends on how badly damaged your liver is. But even in the worst case, a liver transplant can proffer a solution.