Chronic Liver Disease: Abdominal Fluid Retention and Swelling in the Ankles

In chronic liver disease, the liver is scarred and damaged thus it can not function as normal as it should. One of the complications of this condition is excessive water retention build-up in the body. Abdominal fluid retention or ascites occurs mostly in patients with cirrhosis of the liver, although other liver disorders can cause it too. Abdominal fluid retention may be accompanied by swelling in the ankles.

Swelling in the Ankles - Abdominal Fluid Retention in Chronic Liver Disease

There’re two main factors or causes of fluid retention in patients with chronic liver disease:

  • The damage or scarring of the liver obstructs the flow of the blood from the intestine to the liver. Blood that fail to reach the liver then leak into the abdominal cavity and lead to abdominal fluid retention.
  • Poor processing functions of the liver results in poor protein albumin synthesis. Protein albumin helps to hold fluid in the bloodstream thus when it is too low, swelling in the ankles and abdominal fluid retention starts to occur.

Cirrhosis of the liver is the main cause of fluid retention in patients with chronic liver disease. It is a condition where the liver is permanently injured and scarred because of chronic disease. The scars obstruct the flow of the blood through the liver causing the liver loses its normal function.

There’re many causes of cirrhosis of the liver:

1. Chronic hepatitis types B, C and D
An inflammation of the liver caused by viral infections

2. Chronic alcoholism

3. Autoimmune hepatitis
An inflammation of the liver caused by immune system attacking the liver

4. Inherited disease such as:

  • Cystic fibrosis
    A recessive genetic disorder affecting the mucus lining of the lungs, leading to breathing problems and other difficulties
  • Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
    Scarring of the liver because the liver fails to metabolize the abnormal protein (alpha-1 antitrypsin) effectively
  • Hemochromatosis
    A genetic disease marked by improper dietary iron metabolism. The disease will cause iron builds up in the body tissues especially the liver
  • Wilson’s disease
    Inflammation of the liver because the liver fails to excrete copper
  • Galactosemia
    A metabolic condition affecting the liver because of the lack of an enzyme that breaks down galactose
  • Glycogen storage disease
    Disease that interferes with the storage of carbohydrates as glycogen in the body

5. Primary biliary cirrhosis
An autoimmune disease of the liver characterized by the slow progressive destruction of the small bile ducts within the liver

6. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
Irritation, scarring, and narrowing of the bile ducts within the liver

7. Biliary atresia
A condition where the common bile duct between the liver and the small intestine is blocked or absent

8. Reactions to certain drugs

9. Exposure to environment toxins

Other causes of abdominal fluid retention and swelling in the ankles in chronic liver disease without cirrhosis included:

  • Severe alcoholic hepatitis
  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Blockage of the hepatic vein