What are ascites?

Ascites are an accumulation of too much fluid in the abdomen (belly). This condition often happens in people who have cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver. It can also happen when cancer spreads to the liver.

Ascites may be painful. It may keep you from moving around comfortably. It can set the stage for an infection in your abdomen. Fluid may move into the chest and surround your lungs. This makes it hard to breathe.

How bad are my ascites?

Mild: Asymptomatic; clinical or diagnostic observations only; intervention not indicated

Moderate: Symptomatic; medical intervention indicated

Severe: Severe symptoms; invasive intervention indicated

How to manage mild ascites?
  • Weigh yourself daily. Call your healthcare provider if you gain more than 10 pounds, or more than two pounds per day for three consecutive days.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ibuprofen (Motrin® and Advil®) and aspirin, affect your kidneys. They can cause your body to retain excess water and salt.
  • Stick to a low-sodium diet. Not more than 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams per day.
  • Limit fluid intake.
How to manage moderate and severe ascites?

Call your health care provider right away if you have:

  • Fever above 100.5°F (38.05°C), or a fever that does not go away
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Blood in your stool or black, tarry stools
  • Blood in your vomit
  • Bruising or bleeding that occurs easily
  • Build-up of fluid in your belly
  • Swollen legs or ankles
  • Breathing problems
  • Confusion or problems staying awake
  • Yellow color in your skin and the whites of your eyes (Jaundice)
What causes ascites?

It can happen when cancer spreads to the liver. You are more likely to develop ascites if you have one of these cancers:

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