Yes, I know that “When are you due?” can be extremely painful for anyone who is not pregnant… But to a 30 year old woman who can’t have any more children, and has Ascites from a failing liver, it is heartbreaking. Of all of the symptoms I had, from constant bleeds, horrible itching, memory loss, daily vomiting… All of them, the ascites was the one that played with my emotions the most. One time, I sat in front of my mirror for almost an hour staring at my pregnant looking belly imagining “if only…”
But really it was something more serious, a symptom of cirrhosis… fluid collecting outside of my organs (in the peritoneal cavity). At first you really don’t notice, but after a little while the pressure builds, the fluid begins to press on your organs, it becomes hard to breathe (and walk) and you can just feel all that fluid sloshing around in there. Ascites is a symptom of an underlying problem, so the only way to truly get rid of it is to fix the cause. In a majority of the cases, it is advanced liver disease (cirrhosis) that causes ascites, but it can also be from congestive heart failure, kidney disease, pancreatitis, and some cancers as well.
Controlling ascites is an uphill battle for anyone, but for a gal on the transplant list with ESLD (end-stage-liver-disease) it would not go away until I got my new liver. It can be managed for quite a while with a proper diet of less then 2,000mg of sodium per day (I kept mine at about 1,000). I also ate foods that were natural diuretics (and just plain good for the liver) like green tea, artichoke, asparagus, lemons, cranberry juice, apple cider vinegar, cucumbers… Once diet alone stopped working I was placed on diuretics, Lasix and Aldactone (watch your potassium and blood-pressure on these folks) but I can not stress the importance of diet still, because these drugs can do some damage, especially to your kidneys, so please don’t depend on them alone! After a while, even stronger diuretics stopped working, and I needed to have an occasional paracentesis. This is where they take a very large needle to tap and drain the fluid (they will also take a sample to test for infection). It relieves the pressure for a while but, unfortunately, fluid usually builds back up pretty quickly.
I took care of my ascites at home, adjusting my own diuretics, and only went in when I had a fever or needed a paracentesis. I weighed myself daily and was insanely strict with my diet. I believe that it kept my ascites under control with the least amount of diuretics, and spared my kidneys from damage while I waited for my new liver. Please see a doctor if you think you may have ascites, and for God’s sake, don’t approach a woman about her belly unless she is rocking a “Bun in the oven” shirt. 😉
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.