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What is Ascites?

Ascites is a condition during which fluid builds up in spaces within your abdomen. It is commonly caused by the liver disease, cirrhosis. In individuals with cirrhosis, their liver does not function normally. This decrease in liver function combines with portal hypertension to cause ascites.

Common symptoms of ascites include:

  • Large belly.
  • Rapid weight gain.
  • Swelling of the ankles.
  • Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and loss of appetite.
  • Back pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.

How is Ascites Diagnosed?

If your provider suspects that you have ascites, he or she will perform a physical exam, as well as speak with you regarding your medical history and your symptoms. Further tests such as blood tests or ultrasound, CT scan or paracentesis may be needed for diagnosis.

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Ascites Treatment Options

To treat ascites, the first step will be to limit your sodium intake. For patients diagnosed with this condition, it is recommended that their sodium intake is less than 2,000-4,000 milligrams daily. Water pills (diuretics) may also need to be taken to help excess sodium and fluid leave your body. We also advise that you limit your use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and alcohol consumption.

In cases where a low-sodium diet and water pills are not enough to improve your symptoms, other treatments may be required. These may include:

Paracentesis: A needle is inserted into the abdomen to remove excess fluid.

Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS): A wire mesh is inserted into a vein in the liver. When inflated, this mesh forms a channel to bypass the liver. This option may be needed if your ascites is not responding to other therapies or you are not a candidate for a liver transplant.

Liver Transplant: If you have severe cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be required.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Ascites or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!

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