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Ascites and Liver Disease

Overview

Ascites is the buildup of fluid in the abdomen. The extra fluid can cause your belly to swell and make it hard to breathe. Ascites can be a complication of other health problems, such as liver disease and some cancers.

How is ascites treated?

Treatment for ascites may include taking medicines, eating a low-salt diet, and having paracentesis therapy.

Medicines

Diuretic medicines, such as spironolactone and furosemide, can help get rid of fluid that has built up in the belly and other parts of the body. These medicines can help both prevent and treat problems with ascites. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic for you to take over the long term.

Low-salt diet

You may need to reduce your sodium intake by eating less salt. You'll feel better and will lower your risk of problems.

Sodium adds to the problem of ascites by causing your body to retain water. It increases fluid buildup in your belly as well as your legs and lungs. Aside from being uncomfortable, this fluid buildup can lead to trouble breathing, infection, and other problems.

You may want to visit with a dietitian. A dietitian can help you get started or find more ways to cut down on salt and eat a variety of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

Paracentesis

Paracentesis is a procedure used to remove some of the fluid to help find out what is causing it to build up. It may be used if you:

  • Have severe ascites that is causing extreme discomfort, including belly pain and trouble breathing. A one-time treatment may relieve discomfort before you begin treatment with one or more diuretics.
  • Have not responded to standard treatment with diuretic medicine and a low-salt diet.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: October 19, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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