What is Peritonitis?


Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum, which is the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen’s inner wall. This tissue also covers and provides support to most of the abdominal organs.

This condition is often the result of a bacterial or fungal infection but it can also occur as a secondary infection that spreads from other focal points such as an untreated appendicitis.

What are the Symptoms of Peritonitis?

The most common symptom of peritonitis is severe abdominal pain. If you begin exhibiting this symptom, seek medical attention promptly in order to prevent complications that could be potentially fatal.

The first symptom, however, that most people experience with peritonitis is nausea, a poor appetite, and a dull ache in the abdominal area. This ache will rapidly transform into a severe and persistent pain that will become even worse with movement.

Other signs to look for include:

  • Chills and fever
  • Tenderness in the abdominal area
  • Abdominal distention
  • An extreme amount of thirst
  • Fluid within the abdomen
  • Being unable to pass urine, or passing only a very small amount of urine
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty with having a bowel movement or passing gas

How is Peritonitis Treated?

This is a serious condition, as it can spread quickly into your blood and make its way to organs, causing organ failure and death. Your doctor will work quickly to determine the cause so that appropriate treatment can be administered.

IV antibiotics, pain medications, and antifungal medications can be used to treat infections and bring relief. Supportive treatments will also be used to treat sepsis and organ failure.

Many cases will require emergency surgery, particularly if the condition is caused by other problems, such as a perforated stomach ulcer, diverticulitis, or appendicitis.

Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
August 24, 2017