During our life several diseases appear, some more frequently, others less. Likewise, there are also signs that indicate that we may have a more serious illness and that we are more concerned than normal.
But despite scaring us, once we are sick, it is necessary to know what are the procedures that must be taken in order for the treatment to be done in the best possible way and, thus, the cure also arrives as soon as possible. This is the case of ascites for example.
A sign of illness in the body that few know its true effects and severity, as well as its treatment. Keep reading and find out more about this condition that is so little talked about by most of us, but that can cause serious damage to health.
What is Ascites?
Ascites, also known as water belly, is the accumulation of fluids in the abdominal part of the body, more specifically in the part in the peritoneal cavity, which is that between the abdomen itself and the tissues that cover it.
Depending on the amount of water that the patient has accumulated, there is a “swelling” in this region, this abdominal distension causes the belly to grow, reminiscent of that of a pregnant woman.
It is important to note that ascites itself is not a disease, in fact it is usually associated with other diseases, mainly related to the liver, but they can also appear due to problems in the pancreas, some infections and even some types of cancer.
Types of Ascites
Ascites can be classified into 2 types: exudative and transudative. This division is related to the composition of the liquid present in the peritoneum region, more specifically to the amount of proteins such as albumin.
There are also three other types of ascites.
- Fetal ascites: When fluid accumulation occurs in the abdomen of the fetus or newborn.
- Chylous ascites: When fluid accumulation occurs due to blockage of the lymphatic pathways.
- Pancreatic ascites: When the accumulation is caused by chronic pancreatitis.
What Causes Ascites?
Ascites happens when our blood vessels, for some reason, are unable to keep the liquid inside themselves, allowing it to leak to regions such as the peritoneum, which usually have a low concentration of liquid or none at all.
Most of the time, this “leak” happens mainly due to three factors, namely the increase in pressure in the veins of the abdominal region, or the obstruction of the flow caused mainly by thrombosis and varicose veins , the fall of the albumin protein that works as a blockage to keep the fluid inside the blood vessels and also when the patient has salt and water retention in the kidneys.
Usually these three factors are linked to other diseases, most of them directly related to excessive alcohol consumption, that is, cirrhosis of the liver, thrombosis, hepatitis, among many others.
Symptoms of Ascites
As it is a sign of another disease, the symptoms of ascites are the most diverse, varying according to the underlying disease. However, the main symptoms of ascites are:
- Swelling of the abdominal region;
- Excessive weight gain;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Pain in the abdominal region.
It may also be common to have a lack of appetite and even difficulty breathing.
How is Ascites Diagnosed?
When presenting the symptoms, the patient should seek a doctor, who can be either an endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, hematologist, or a general practitioner.
Depending on the amount of accumulated liquid, it is possible to make the diagnosis in the doctor’s office through palpations in the abdominal region. However, when there is a low amount of liquid, this method is not enough.
The doctor should order a complete blood test, or imaging tests such as ultrasound and even an abdominal puncture.
Does Ascites Have a Cure?
The cure of ascites depends on the cure of the underlying disease, that is, without this first treatment, ascites has no cure and can return several times. Depending on the stage at which the underlying disease is found, ascites will need to be treated for a long period.
Everything will depend on the treatment of the underlying disease, however, to decrease the volume of fluid in the abdominal region the doctor may prescribe diuretics, to help the patient to eliminate part of that fluid.
Ingestion of antibiotics for cases in which there is infection of this liquid and along with this the patient must follow a diet that mainly restricts salt and also completely stop the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
For more severe cases, a procedure called frequent therapeutic paracentesis is recommended, which consists of puncture of this localized fluid. This treatment is the most efficient, since it removes a large amount of liquid at once, however it is necessary to apply local anesthesia. Paracentesis can also serve as a diagnostic method.
When left untreated, ascites can develop causing some more serious problems. So it is always important to see a doctor as soon as you notice some of the symptoms and then start treatment quickly.
Another point of extreme importance is to know the underlying disease of ascites in order to be able to treat it correctly.
Some of the most common complications of ascites are:
- Bacterial peritonite
- Hepatic encephalopathy
Let’s talk a little more about each one.
Bacterial peritonitis occurs due to the proliferation of bacteria in the region of the peritoneum, where there is an accumulation of fluid, causing an infection.
Sepsis is a consequence of bacterial peritonitis which, when left untreated, becomes a generalized infection that can lead the patient to death.
Hepatic encephalopathy is caused by the malfunction of the liver, which is no longer able to eliminate toxins from the blood. This complication if not treated quickly can lead the patient to mental confusion and even coma.
Often we only realize that we are sick because of a signal that our body gives. In the case of ascites, the sign itself is already a major complication of some other disease, which is not a good sign.
The good news is that there are treatments that aim to not only reduce the effects that ascites brings, but also to control this condition. Taking care of your health is the most important thing you can do in your life, because without it, you cannot do anything else.
So, if you have any of the symptoms of ascites or suspect something similar, seek medical help as soon as possible. Remember: The more I give in, the diseases are discovered and treated, the greater the chance of improvement of the patient.
See Also: Is Belly Pie in Pregnancy Normal?
My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.