The peritoneal cavity is covered by a membrane known as the peritoneum; in this cavity, a small amount of fluid is stored that helps lubricate the abdominal wall and organs, preventing friction. This fluid, called peritoneal fluid, is produced by the two layers that make up the peritoneum and contains water, antibodies, electrolytes, white blood cells, and biochemical elements of the different metabolisms.
Although the peritoneal fluid is essential and must always be kept in the peritoneal cavity, the excessive accumulation can represent the suffering of severe disease. To an advanced degree, this disorder is known as ascites or dropsy. Ascites can be caused by various conditions, and within the alterations that occur, there is usually a protein deficit, mainly albumin, and a decrease in the arterial pressure of the blood vessels that connect with the liver.
The fluid that leaks into the peritoneal cavity is not always the same and will depend on the affected organ or structure. Generally, the fluid can come from the liver, pancreas, intestine, kidneys, or blood flow.
This condition can occur at any age and without distinction of sex, although it also depends on the pathology that causes it. For this reason, at FastlyHealwe want to inform you everything about ascites: symptoms, causes and treatments.
Main symptoms of ascites
Depending on what causes the ascites, the symptoms and the time they manifest can vary, whether they develop slowly or appear at the moment. However, in many cases, when the fluid accumulated in the abdomen is little, symptoms of ascites are not observed, but by increasing this fluid, the patient may present:
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal distension.
- Abdominal pain.
- Dyspnea or shortness of breath, the excessive accumulation of fluid, can put pressure on an element of the respiratory system, such as the diaphragm.
- It increased body weight for no apparent reason.
- Decreased appetite or feeling full.
- Indigestion or upset stomach.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Tiredness or feeling of lack of energy.
- Swollen ankles due to weight gain due to the accumulation of fluid or pressure on some blood vessels.
- Pain in the lower back
- Visible superficial abdominal veins increase pressure in the veins, causing enlargement.
Possible causes of ascites
The accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity can occur for several reasons, many of them related to the deterioration of the functions or complements of the liver. However, other conditions cause ascites, such as heart disease, pancreas, or kidneys, some less frequent than others but of equal importance to health, most with serious complications. Some of the most common causes of ascites are:
- Excessive and prolonged consumption of alcoholic beverages.
- I have suffered from hepatitis C or B for a long time.
- Thrombosis in the portal vein, there is an obstruction by clots that prevents the correct blood flow in the veins of the liver.
- Hypertension of the portal vein increases blood pressure, and part of it can leak, often through the liver or intestine, accumulating in the peritoneal cavity.
- I am having hemochromatosis, an inherited disorder that primarily damages the liver due to the excessive accumulation of iron.
- Renal failure and nephrotic syndrome.
- Inflammation and peritoneal infection.
- Pancreatitis, for some cause, such as an injury to the pancreas, is possible that the pancreatic fluid spills into the peritoneal cavity and accumulates in it.
- Inflammation of the intestines.
- Cancer involvement, mainly colored, gastrointestinal, ovarian, uterine, liver, or pancreatic cancer.
- Congestive heart failure weakens the heart and decreases the ability to pump blood, causing accumulation in certain body parts.
- Constrictive pericarditis, as the membrane that covers the heart becomes inflamed, causes blood pumping to decrease in quantity and strength, with the probability of thrombosis and the accumulation of blood.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus can damage the functions of specific organs, such as the kidney, and cause ascites as a complication.
- If severe, some infections, including tuberculosis and chlamydia, can cause the deterioration of specific structures, causing the expulsion of protein fluid into the peritoneal cavity.
Treatment to combat ascites
To combat ascites, it is necessary to alleviate the condition that causes it. You must consult your doctor before any symptoms or abdominal discomfort so that the correct diagnosis is made and the best treatment is given. On the other hand, although excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity can be reduced with other procedures, fluid accumulation may continue to occur if the cause is not eliminated.
If the ascites are not severe, steps can be followed to reduce the fluid quickly, such as keeping the rest lying down since standing up favors fluid accumulation. It is advisable to reduce the use of salt in food and consume beverages moderately; this will help to reduce fluid retention. Stopping alcoholic beverages will favor the treatment, especially if the cause is liver damage.
Also, the doctor might recommend diuretics so that the excess fluid is eliminated by the kidney through the urine. In case of contracting an infection in the peritoneal fluid or its supplements, antibiotics will be necessary since, in many cases, it would not be possible to continue with the treatment of the cause of ascites if the infection is not eliminated.
Most patients with ascites respond favorably to the treatment above; However, when this does not work and the condition can generate complications, invasive methods are used, including:
- Paracentesis consists of extracting excess peritoneal fluid through a needle or probe in the abdominal wall. It is recommended when ascites cause more incredible difficulty in breathing or eating.
- Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt or TIPS, this technique is used if there is an obstruction between two blood vessels related to the liver and to repair the connection between these veins if there is a fissure or injury; with this, correct blood flow is restored, and their accumulation.
- Transplantation this treatment is used for ascites when the patient does not respond to the procedures and presents severe damage to the organ that favors the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, such as the liver.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.