What is it?
This is when there is an excess of fluid in the peritoneal cavity – the space between the two layers of membrane or peritoneum, that lines the inside of the abdominal wall and the outside of the abdominal organs.
There can be as much as several litres of fluid, causing abdominal swelling.
What are the causes?
Ascites may occur as a feature of any condition that causes oedema ( excess accumulation of fluid in the body tissues).
The most important of these conditions are;
– Congestive heart failure
– Nephrotic syndrome
– Cirrhosis of the liver
Ascites may also occur in cancer if the cancerous cell metastases from lung, breast, or intestinal tumors are deposited on the surface of the peritoneum.
Ascites also occurs when tuberculosis affects the abdomen.
What are the signs and symptoms?
In addition to the abdominal swelling and discomfort, it may also cause;
√ Breathing difficulty
√ Immobilization of the diaphragm.
√ Abdominal discomfort
√ Shortness of breath due to the increased pressure on your diaphragm from all the fluid build-up.
√ Having pleural effusion which is fluid around your lung. This happens when the fluid gets pass your diaphragm and surround your lungs.
√ A cosmetically disfigured large belly.
√ Mental confusion
√ Easy bruising
How can it be treated?
Treatment depends on the cause of the ascites, but in many cases include bed rest, fluid and salt restriction.
Alcohol must not be taken by such patient if liver problem is indicated.
Diuretic drugs – drugs that aid increase in urine output, may be prescribed.
If the ascites causes discomfort or breathing difficulty, fluid can be drained from the peritoneal cavity.