Ascites or “fluid in the belly” happens when fluid collects in the space between the organs in the belly and the belly wall. The most common cause of ascites is a liver condition called “cirrhosis.” Cirrhosis is a disease that scars the liver. Other causes of ascites are not as common, but can include heart problems, cancer, and certain infections.
What symptoms are caused by ascites? — Ascites can cause:
Sometimes, the ascites fluid can get infected. This can cause worse pain, fever, and sometimes confusion. If you have ascites and then get any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away.
Individuals with ascites may have a procedure called “paracentesis.” For this procedure, your doctor will put a needle into your belly and into the collection of fluid. During paracentesis your doctor will numb the area of skin where the needle is inserted with a local anesthetic. Your doctor will remove a sample of fluid and send it to a lab for tests. These tests can show what’s causing the fluid to collect and if the fluid is infected.
How is ascites treated? — Treatment depends partly on what’s causing the fluid to collect and the severity of your condition.
If you have cirrhosis, your treatment will probably involve:
Treatment also depends on your symptoms. If you have severe symptoms, symptoms that don’t get better with treatment, or symptoms that come back after treatment, you might need to have:
Both of these treatments can help improve your symptoms so you feel better.
If you have severe liver disease, your doctor will talk with you about the possibility of having a liver transplant. A liver transplant is surgery in which a doctor replaces a diseased liver with a healthy liver.