Font Size

Ascites (cont.)

Ascites Symptoms

There is a distinction between patients who develop ascites because of liver disease and cirrhosis, and those who develop it because of inflammation of the peritoneum because of cancer. Liver disease tends to be relatively painless, while cancer patients experience significant amounts of pain.

Otherwise, the symptoms are similar. There is swelling of the abdomen to accommodate the fluid buildup. This may make it difficult for the diaphragm (the flat muscle that separates the chest form the abdomen) to assist with breathing, causing shortness of breath.

While a tense abdomen filled with fluid is easy to recognize, initially, the amount of ascites fluid may be small and difficult to detect. As the amount of fluid increases, the patient may complain of a fullness or heaviness in the abdomen. It is often the signs of the underlying disease that initially brings the patient to seek medical care.

In cirrhosis of the liver, not only does fluid accumulate in the abdominal cavity, but there may be leg swelling,easy bruising, enlargement of the breasts, and confusion due to encephalopathy (encephalo=brain + pathy=disorder).

If the ascites is due to heart failure, there may be shortness of breath as well as leg swelling (edema). The shortness of breath tends to be worse with activity and with lying flat (orthopnea). Patients with ascites due to heart failure tend to waken in the middle of the night, with paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (dys= abnormal + pnea= breathing).

Patients with cancer may complain of pain, weight loss, and fatigue in association with the abdominal distention.

Those who have spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (an infection of the peritoneum) develop abdominal pain and fever.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/10/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Ascites

Acetaminophen Poisoning  (Tylenol)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Poisoning Acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning is caused primarily by damage to the liver. Symptoms of acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal ...learn more >>
Alcoholism Alcohol problems vary in severity from mild to life threatening and affect the individual, the person's family, and society in numerous adverse ways. Signs of a...learn more >>
18 Cancer Symptoms
Cancer Symptoms Most symptoms and signs of canc...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Ascites:

Acites - Patient Experience

Please describe your experience with ascites.

Acites - Medical Treatment

What treatment did you receive that was effective in managing your ascites?

Ascites - Symptoms

What symptoms accompanied your ascites?

Medical Dictionary