What are the Most Common Peritonitis Symptoms?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Peritonitis refers to irritation, inflammation, and infection of the inner lining of the abdominal cavity called the peritoneum. It is a potentially serious condition that can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms. The most common peritonitis symptoms include chronic abdominal pain, high fever, chills, and nausea. Peritonitis symptoms tend to worsen over time without treatment and may lead to breathing problems, dangerously low blood pressure, and possibly shock. A person who experiences lasting symptoms should visit a doctor as soon as possible to get the proper antibiotic treatment.

The first peritonitis symptoms typically include dull aches and tenderness in the abdomen. Pain tends to worsen after physical activity or when suddenly moving from one position to another. Tenderness is relieved in some people by putting pressure on the stomach, but soon returns when the abdomen is relaxed. Swelling and bloating are possible, which give the abdomen a distended appearance. Over the course of a few days, pain, tenderness, and bloating tend to become constant ailments.

Many people with peritonitis also have stomach cramps, frequent bouts of nausea, and vomiting. Loss of appetite and resulting weight loss are common complications of feeling nauseous most of the time. Flu-like symptoms, such as excessive sweating, fever, chills, and sleeping problems, tend to develop as other symptoms worsen. Individuals might also feel fatigued, and their muscles and joints may start to ache constantly.


Other possible peritonitis symptoms include trouble passing stools and urine. A marked decrease in urinary output is common, and a person may not be able to urinate even when he or she has the urge to do so. Passing very few stools and gas is a sign that ingested food and waste products are having trouble making it to the lower intestine. Inflammation and damage to the gastrointestinal tract may be causing air and fluid to spill into the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis symptoms to get worse.

It is essential to see a physician whenever symptoms persist for more than one or two days. A doctor can ask about symptoms, perform a physical exam, and screen blood samples to look for signs of infection. Imaging tests may reveal peritoneal inflammation and problems with the intestines. Most symptoms can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs, prescription painkillers, and a specific diet plan when they are discovered early. Surgery might be needed in advanced cases of peritonitis to remove bacterial abscesses or repair damaged tissue structures.


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