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?!!!What Is Ascites?
Ascites is a medical condition that causes excess fluids to build up in the abdomen, in the space around the organs. A small amount of fluid in this space is normal, but excess fluid causes problems. Ascites most commonly happens when the liver fails to function properly, and it's seen in patients with cirrhosis. The condition gets its name from the composition of the fluid - typically, it's very protein-rich, which is called ascitic. Unfortunately, ascites is a serious health condition, and only approximately 30-40% of people survive the 5-year period after diagnosis.
The main cause of ascites are problems with the liver. When the liver becomes damaged, it begins to leak ascitic fluid into the abdominal space, where the liquid accumulates. Cirrhosis is a liver disorder caused by excessive alcohol consumption or viral hepatitis that can result in ascites, though there are other conditions that can also lead to ascites. Some of these conditions include various cancers, heart failure, kidney failure, infections of the pancreas, or tuberculosis. These conditions tend to be chronic (long-lasting) rather than acute (short-term).
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Extra fluids in the abdomen can put pressure on the surrounding organs. This may cause difficulty breathing, especially when lying down, and abdominal pain. Sometimes patients will experience rapid weight gain and have a distended or bloated midsection along with a lack of appetite, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting.
Diagnosing ascites requires multiple steps. First, it has to be ascertained that the belly is distended or swollen. Then an imaging technique, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, may be used to look for fluids. Blood tests may also be done. If diagnosed with ascites, one of the first treatment options is the use of diuretics. Diuretics promote the production of urine and help deplete the body of excess fluid. Typically, the patient then also needs to reduce their salt and alcohol intake while taking diuretics.
Fluids may also be manually removed in a procedure called paracentesis. This method uses a needle that is inserted through the abdominal wall to the space where the fluid accumulates; however, this method is most commonly used in cancer patients rather than those with malfunctioning livers.
In very serious cases, surgery may be required. There are two main types of surgery for ascites: a shunt or liver transplant. A shunt allows blood to be rerouted around the liver, while a liver transplant is used in cases where the liver disease is advanced.
There are a few things that can be done to prevent ascites. Drinking alcohol in moderation, getting the hepatitis B vaccine, avoiding intravenous drug use, and being well informed about your prescription medications are all steps that will help decrease the probability of developing ascites.
Ascites is the buildup of fluids in the abdomen, usually as a result of liver damage, preventing the liver from functioning properly. Cirrhosis of the liver, various cancers, heart failure, kidney failure, infections of the pancreas, or tuberculosis may all be causes of ascites.
Symptoms usually include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Difficulty breathing
- Distended belly
- Rapid weight gain
Typically, diuretics are the first treatment option, along with a low-sodium, low-alcohol diet. Fluids can be manually removed through a paracentesis, or surgery may be necessary. Unfortunately, the long-term survival rate for ascites is between 30 and 40%.
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What Is Ascites? - Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
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