Peritonitis: Overview, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Peritonitis, as the name suggests, is the inflammation of the peritoneum. The peritoneum can be defined as the lining or the silk-line membranes that line the abdominal wall. The most common reason for the inflammation is bacterial or fungal infections. Even though it sounds like a typical illness like any other mild infection, peritonitis can actually be lethal if not treated properly on time.

There are two types of peritonitis identified in the human body

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis: An acute case of bacterial infection involving the ascetic fluid can be defined as what is known as spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. It occurs without an abdominal rupture and is usually found to be a complication of underlying liver diseases. Cirrhosis in its advanced stage is one of the most common causes of this condition.

Secondary Peritonitis: In this type, bacteria enter the peritoneum from any of the organs in the digestive tract. The entranceway is a hole or perforation in the organ involved. A hole in the digestive tract is not regular and can result from stomach ulcers, a punctured colon, or a ruptured appendix.


Cirrhosis: As mentioned above, the advanced stage of cirrhosis can lead to fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity, which is susceptible to bacterial growth and infection. This bacteria, when comes in contact with the peritoneum, can cause peritonitis and make the overall situation of the patient worse. The prognosis is not on the positive side for this kind of infection.

Peritoneal dialysis therapy: Patients who regularly receive peritoneal dialysis therapy are at risk but can void such infections by maintaining impeccable hygiene before and after the treatment. It should be ensured that the treatment is done under completely clean conditions.

Burst appendix: Untreated or even under-treatment appendicitis can burst anytime after 48 hours of showing symptoms. A burst appendix can also lead to peritonitis along with other life-threatening complications. Therefore, appendicitis is to be treated as an emergency.

Abdominal Injury: Any trauma or accident that leads to severe abdomen injury can lead to infection in the area and cause peritonitis.

Perforated Organ: A hole in the stomach, gallbladder, intestine, uterus, or bladder can cause bacteria to enter the abdomen.

Pelvic inflammatory disease: Women who are suffering from the pelvic inflammatory disease are also at risk of having peritonitis.

Surgery: Surgeries involving the abdominal area can lead to bacteria entering the belly if proper hygiene is not maintained. This can eventually lead to peritonitis.

Symptoms of Peritonitis:

Urination is not frequent and is instead on the lower side.

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • Heavy/full feeling in the abdomen
  • Breathing issues
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Swollen belly
  • Gastric issues and constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dialysis fluid appears to be greyish
  • Fibrin in the dialysis fluid
  • Dialysis fluid smells unusual
  • The area around the catheter is red and painful
  • in case of the patient taking peritoneal dialysis therapy


    Some of the symptoms of peritonitis can be similar to other regular health problems which aren't harmful in the long run. So, it can be challenging to detect it unless the patient has any of the underlying diseases which cause peritonitis. If symptoms worsen or the patient is uncomfortable, they should be immediately taken for a check-up.

    The doctor first examines the patient physically and then prescribes some antibiotics and other medicines to mitigate the symptoms. A series of tests are also advised to be done immediately to confirm the abdomen's condition.

    Since the cause of the ailment varies from patient to patient, the treatment also differs. Surgery might also be required in case medicines fail to neutralize the infection. Alternative treatment plans can be discussed with the doctor to understand the complications and other factors involved.

    Perinotisis is a condition that is often detected as a complication of an underlying disease. In that case, the treatment of the disease is also vital. Source control is also a term used for this kind of treatment plan.

    Doctors note:

    Peritonitis is in no way an everyday infection. If the treatment is delayed for whatsoever reason, the condition can further spread in the body and cause irreversible damage. Not in all patients, but peritonitis is highly life-threatening if it arises from other diseases like cirrhosis.

    Therefore, if any symptom arises in high-risk patients, they must consult the emergency where they can be referred to specialty-based treatment. In patients with no underlying disease, any prolonged discomfort in the abdominal area and other symptoms shouldn't be taken lightly. If there is confusion regarding the symptoms, one can consult a good physician who can then divert the case to the required specialty doctor.