Ascites is a condition in which fluid collects in spaces within your abdomen. If severe, ascites may be painful. The problem may keep you from moving around comfortably. Ascites can set the stage for an infection in your abdomen. Fluid may also move into your chest and surround your lungs. This makes it hard to breathe.
The most common cause of ascites is cirrhosis of the liver. Drinking too much alcohol is one of the most common causes of cirrhosis of the liver.
Different types of cancer can also cause this condition. Ascites caused by cancer most often occur with advanced or recurrent cancer. Ascites may also be caused by other problems such as heart conditions, dialysis, low protein levels, and infection.
These are symptoms of ascites:
Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. You may also have tests such as:
A number of steps may help ease your ascites. Your healthcare provider may tell you to:
Ascites can make eating, drinking, and moving around difficult. It can also make it hard to breathe. Ascites can lead to abdominal infections, which may cause kidney failure. It can also cause umbilical or inguinal hernias.
Certain steps to help you avoid cirrhosis of the liver and cancer can prevent ascites. These include:
Be sure to follow your healthcare provider's advice for lowering your salt intake. You'll need to do this even if you're taking diuretic drugs to reduce fluid in your body. Also, weigh yourself daily and call your healthcare provider if you gain too much weight.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider: