When your stomach feels bloated or swollen, your first thoughts usually go to the foods that you’ve eaten or the amount of water you’ve ingested recently. But if your swollen stomach is paired with other symptoms like nausea or fatigue, food may not be the culprit.

What is Ascites?

Ascites is a build-up of fluid in the abdomen and is usually a sign of other underlying conditions. What causes ascites, and what can you do if you think you have it?

Symptoms of Ascites

Swelling of the abdomen from ascites usually develops over a few weeks, but it can also occur in as short as a few days. If you have ascites, it’s typically incredibly uncomfortable and causes:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Bloating
  • Weight gain

If the ascites move up from your abdominal cavity to your chest, it can cause pressure on your lungs and make it difficult to breathe.

Causes of Ascites

While the symptoms of ascites can be uncomfortable, ascites in itself is a symptom of other conditions including liver disease, cancer, heart or kidney failure, cirrhosis, infection, and tuberculosis.

The exact cause of ascites can change depending on the condition causing it, but it typically involves pressure that blocks blood flow and prevents your organs from operating as they should. Over time, this creates salt build-up in your body, which in turn causes fluid to build-up.

Treatment for Ascites

If you think you have ascites, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. Since ascites is a symptom of other worsening conditions, it’s crucial that you seek professional expertise relatively quickly to stop the spread of conditions like cancer, infection, or liver disease.

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and run a variety of tests — including blood work, an ultrasound, or a CT scan — to determine if you have ascites. If your doctor thinks you do, then a fluid sample from your abdomen will be sent for testing to determine the cause of your ascites.

Other than curing or managing the conditions causing ascites, you should also:

  • Limit your fluid consumption
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Minimize the salt in your diet
  • Make other lifestyle changes

Your doctor may also prescribe water pills to help flush the extra fluid from your body. If your ascites is more severe and a change of diet or lifestyle aren’t effective, your doctor may use paracentesis to remove large amounts of excess fluid from your abdomen. This procedure uses a needle to remove the fluid from the abdomen. If these treatments continue to be ineffective, surgery may be required.

If You Believe You Have Ascites, Let Us Help You

At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of disease. We work with more than 70 referring physicians in San Antonio and Austin, providing clinical trials in liver disease.

Contact us today to explore your options and discuss how we can help you.