Causes Of Peritonitis In Humans: Symptoms & Treatment Options

Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum (which is the lining of the inner abdominal wall and the viscera in the abdomen). The commonest cause for the condition is bacterial or fungal infection. It gets triggered due to a rupture in the abdomen, or as a complication of other medical conditions, such as pancreatitis.

Peritonitis calls for immediate medical attention. Untreated, peritonitis can lead to a severe, life threatening infection throughout the body.

Signs And Symptoms Of Peritonitis

Signs and symptoms of peritonitis are:

  • Pain and tenderness in the abdomen
  • Distension of the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Diarrhea
  • Low urine output
  • Inability to pass stool or gas
  • Exhaustion

In case, you are receiving peritoneal dialysis, the symptoms will also include:

  • Cloudy dialysis fluid
  • White clumps in the dialysis fluid

What Are The Causes Of Peritonitis?

The chief cause for peritonitis is perforation in the abdominal wall. Although, this is rather rare, peritonitis may develop without an abdominal perforation too. This is called spontaneous peritonitis.

Common causes of ruptures which cause peritonitis are:

  • Medical procedures: Peritoneal dialysis makes use of catheters to get rid of waste products from the blood when your kidneys can not do it anymore. An infection is known to occur during a peritoneal dialysis procedure due to unhygienic surroundings, poor sanitation or use of contaminated apparatus.
    Peritonitis may develop as a consequence to a GI surgery, the use of feeding tubes or after a procedure to extract fluid from the abdomen and seldom after endoscopy or colonoscopy.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas along with infection triggers peritonitis if the bacteria spread outside the organ.
  • Stomach ulcer, rupture of the appendix or perforation of the colon allow bacteria to get into the peritoneum through a hole in the GI tract causing infection.
  • When the small, bulging pouches in the GI tract get infected, it may cause peritonitis if one the pouch ruptures, spilling the waste into the abdominal cavity.
  • Injury triggers peritonitis by allowing bacteria to gain entry in to the peritoneum.
  • Liver cirrhosis: When peritonitis develops without abdominal rupture, it is frequently a complication of a liver condition, like cirrhosis. Advanced cirrhosis causes a large amount of fluid to accumulate in the abdomen. This fluid buildup is prone to bacterial infection.

Treatment Options Of Peritonitis

You need to be hospitalized for peritonitis; the treatment regimen comprises of:

  • You will be given antibiotics to battle the infection. The type and duration of the antibiotics depends upon the intensity of the condition.
  • Surgery is required to get rid of the infected tissue; and to manage a case of a ruptured appendix, stomach or colon.
  • Other treatments: Your doctor will give you pain medications, intravenous fluids, supplemental oxygen and, in some cases, a blood transfusion to deal with the signs and symptoms effectively.
  • If you are on to dialysis and have peritonitis, your doctor will advise that you receive dialysis in another way for some time, whilst the infection clears. In case the peritonitis continues or recurs, you will have to stop having peritoneal dialysis altogether and change to a different form of dialysis.