The body requires fluids to function. However, some conditions lead to an abnormal buildup of fluids, and that can be harmful. Ascitic fluid is produced by a variety of organs, or by specific conditions. If the fluid builds up in the abdominal cavity or peritoneum, this can cause difficulty breathing, nausea, fatigue, and an overwhelming feeling of fullness. The buildup, called ascites, is most commonly associated with cirrhosis but may also be a symptom of heart or kidney failure, infection, or cancer.
Ascites is a symptom or an underlying cause of another condition. There are two types, classified based on the amount of protein contained in the fluid. Transudative ascites has a lower protein count; cirrhosis of the liver is the most common cause. Exudative ascites fluids are higher in protein and identified by the higher number of white blood cells present. In most cases, cancers or tuberculous peritonitis causes this type, and people with cirrhosis or chronic kidney disease often receive this diagnosis.
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