Although most commonly due to cirrhosis, severe liver disease or metastatic cancer, its presence can portend other significant medical problems such as Budd–Chiari syndrome. Diagnosis of the cause is usually with blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the abdomen, and direct removal of the fluid by needle or paracentesis (which may also be therapeutic)
Treatment may be with medication (diuretics), paracentesis, or other treatments directed at the cause.
Mild ascites is hard to notice, but severe ascites leads to abdominal distension. Patients with ascites generally will complain of progressive abdominal heaviness and pressure as well as shortness of breath due to mechanical impingement on the diaphragm.