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There are 16 possible causes of ascites

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Overview

When fluid builds up inside the abdomen, it is known as ascites. Ascites usually occurs when the liver stops working properly. Fluid fills the space between the lining of the abdomen and the organs.

People with ascites only have a five-year survival rate of 30 to 40 percent. If you experience ascites symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

Ascites Causes and Risk Factors

Ascites is most often caused by liver scarring. This increases pressure inside the liver’s blood vessels. The increased pressure can force fluid into the abdominal cavity, causing ascites.

Liver damage is the biggest risk factor for ascites. Some causes of liver damage include:

  • cirrhosis
  • hepatitis B or C
  • a history of alcohol use

Other conditions that may increase your risk of ascites include:

  • ovarian, pancreatic, liver, or endometrial cancer
  • heart or kidney failure
  • pancreatitis
  • tuberculosis

Symptoms of Ascites

Symptoms of ascites can appear either 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
  • bloating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • heartburn

Many ascites symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. They do not always signal an emergency. However, you should talk to your doctor if you are at risk for ascites and experience any of its symptoms.

Diagnosing Ascites

Diagnosing ascites takes multiple steps. Your doctor will first check for swelling in your abdomen. Then he will probably use imaging to look for fluid. Abdominal imaging might include an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Blood tests, laparoscopy, and angiography can also be used to diagnose ascites.

Treatment for Ascites

Treatment for ascites depends on what is causing your condition.

Diuretics

Diuretics are a common way to treat this condition. They reduce the pressure within the veins around the liver. In other words, they treat the cause of ascites.

Diuretics are used to treat ascites. While you are on diuretics, your doctor may want to monitor your blood chemistry. You will probably need to reduce your alcohol use and salt intake.

Paracentesis

This procedure uses a thin, long needle to remove the excess fluid. It is inserted through the skin and into the abdominal cavity. Because of this, there is a risk of infection. You may be prescribed antibiotics.

This treatment is usually used when cancer is causing the ascites. Diuretics do not work as well in cancer patients. Their fluid buildup is usually not caused by liver damage.

Surgery

In extreme cases, a permanent tube called a shunt is implanted in the body. It reroutes blood flow around the liver.

Liver transplant may also be recommended if ascites does not respond to treatment. It is generally used for end-stage liver disease.

Preventing Ascites

Ascites can not be prevented. However, you can lower your risk by protecting your liver. To do this:

  • Drink alcohol only in moderation. This can help prevent cirrhosis.
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis B.
  • Always practice safe sex. Hepatitis can be spread sexually.
  • Avoid intravenous drug use. Hepatitis can also be transmitted through shared needles.
  • Be aware of the potential side effects of your medications. If liver damage is a risk, talk to your doctor about whether your liver function should be tested.

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Possible Causes - Listed in order from the most common to the least.

1

Peritonitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Peritonitis is the inflammation of a thin layer of tissue inside the abdomen. Caused by bacteria or fungus, it causes tenderness, bloating, fatigue, greying of the skin, and other problems.

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2

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a disease that causes inflammation and infection in the liver. Symptoms of chronic cases may not be obvious at first, whereas acute hepatitis C sets in quickly after exposure to the virus.

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3

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is severe scarring and poor function of the liver caused by long-term exposure to toxins such as alcohol or viral infections. Certain medications and disorder can also cause cirrhosis.

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4

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Damage to the liver from excessive drinking can lead to ALD. Years of alcohol abuse cause the liver to become inflamed and swollen. This damage can also cause scarring known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final stage o...

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5

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer causes destruction of liver cells and interferes with the ability of the liver to function normally. Cancer that originates in the liver can spread from the liver to other parts of the body.

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6

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver. It

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7

Hepatitis E

The hepatitis E virus is spread most often by contaminated drinking water. It is different from the hep-A virus but the symptoms are similar. Most cases clear up on their own after a few weeks. In other cases, the viru...

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8

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is an infection of the hepatitis D virus that causes your liver to swell and is uncommon in the United States. It is almost always contracted by people with hepatitis B.

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9

Ovarian Cancer

The ovaries are small, almond-shaped organs located on either side of the uterus that produce eggs. As the disease progresses, symptoms include back pain and indigestion.

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10

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition that affects the four chambers of the heart. Early symptoms include fatigue and weight gain. Irregular heart beat and wheezing indicate a worsening.

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11

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is a lymphatic system cancer. Tumors develop from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. NHL is more common than Hodgkin's lymphoma. Many types of cancers can spread to the lymph nodes...

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12

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is liver inflammation caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV is one of five types of hepatitis virus. The others are hepatitis A, C, D, and E. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stat...

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13

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis affects the organ known as the pancreas, which is located below your stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes, which help to digest your food, and hormones such as insulin, which regulates the leve...

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14

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer occurs within the tissues of the pancreas, a vital organ that is located behind the stomach. The pancreas plays an essential role in digestion by producing enzymes that the body needs to digest fats...

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15

Pericarditis

Pericarditis is the inflammation of the sac that surrounds your heart. The sac is a double-layered membrane called the pericardium. The pericardium protects your heart and helps it function properly.Pericarditis can b...

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16

Burkitt's Lymphoma

Burkitt's lymphoma is a relatively rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps your body to fight infections...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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