What Are the Causes of Ascites?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Although there are many possible causes of ascites, liver disease is the most frequent contributor. Congestive heart failure, tuberculosis and some types of infection also are among the possible causes. Pancreatitis, kidney failure and certain forms of cancer might be contributing factors in some cases. Any specific questions or concerns about the potential causes of ascites in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Ascites are accumulations of fluid within the abdominal cavity, often leading to significant swelling, discomfort and digestive disturbances. Liver disease accounts for the vast majority of causes for this condition. When the liver does not function properly, it is unable to produce enough protein to contain fluid within the circulatory system. As a result, the fluid accumulates within the abdominal cavity, causing a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and potential complications.

In addition to liver disease, congestive heart failure and other cardiac problems are potential causes. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart becomes too weak to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. As the pumping action of the heart decreases, fluid begins to accumulate in the abdominal cavity and around various organs of the body. Any heart-related condition that decreases heart function has the potential to cause ascites.


Advanced kidney disease or reduced kidney function is known to be among the possible causes of ascites. As renal function declines, the kidneys lose the ability to filter waste products from the blood, leading to the accumulation of fluid throughout the body. If protein begins to spill into the kidneys, the risk of developing ascites is significantly increased. Excess sodium intake might also lead to this symptom, especially if kidney disease is present.

Some forms of cancer might lead to fluid accumulation and swelling. These causes of ascites might include colon cancer, lymphoma or breast cancer. Other cancers that are prone to causing abdominal swelling include cancers of the ovaries, stomach, lungs or pancreas. Any unusual abdominal swelling should be reported to a doctor right away for further medical evaluation.

Treatment depends upon the individual causes of ascites as well as the overall health of the patient. In some cases, dietary changes and fluid restriction might be all that are needed to adequately manage the condition. Medications known as diuretics might help flush some of the excess fluid from the body. In more severe cases, surgical intervention might become necessary to drain some of the fluid from the abdominal cavity.


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Post 3

I often hear about people with bad hearts getting fluid build up around the heart. This makes sense to me because once an organ as important as the heart starts to malfunction there is no way of knowing all of the complications that might happen. That's why people should be more conscious of their heart health and exercise and watch what they eat.

Post 2

@mobilian33 - When my father was diagnosed with colon cancer, his doctors told him that ascites was something that he might have to deal with as a result of the cancer. Of course, when you hear the word cancer you know that the road ahead is not going to be an easy one, and you try to prepare yourself for all of the negative side effects of the disease.

Fortunately, my father father ad no major ascites cancer problems. However, I have heard several people talk about how someone's cancer did cause this condition in the abdomen.

Post 1

I didn't know colon cancer could lead to ascites. All of the times I have heard about the condition it has been related to drinking too much alcohol. Most of the men on my father's side of the family were heavy drinkers. Drinking was pretty much a tradition with them, passed down from one generation to the next.

My father's liver went bad on him when he was in his 50s, and he developed ascites fluid. I can remember seeing him in the hospital bed, and he looked like his whole body was swollen. Liver disease is a terrible way to die. Several of his brothers and uncles went through the same thing.

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