Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum which lines the abdominal cavity. It is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, that itself can be caused by a number of factors. Vomiting, rapid heartbeat, lack of appetite and stomach pain are some of the symptoms. As the infection can spread through the body, seeking medical help is essential.

Symptoms of Peritonitis

  • Nausea.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • High temperature.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Swollen stomach.
  • Jaundice (skin appears yellow).

What is Peritonitis?

Peritonitis is an inflammatory condition of the lining of the abdomen, caused by an infection. The infection can spread rapidly from the peritoneum to the blood and then the organs of the body. For this reason, it is a medical emergency.

Peritonitis can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver - scarring often caused by alcohol abuse.
  • Peritoneal dialysis - a treatment for kidney failure.
  • Burst appendix.
  • Split stomach ulcer.
  • Knife or gunshot wounds.
  • Digestive disorders such as Crohn's disease.


If peritonitis is suspected the patient should be taken to the hospital immediately.

On arrival at the hospital, a full examination will be conducted, as well as blood and urine tests to check for infections. Further investigations such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan may be used to get an image of the peritoneum to assess the extent of the damage.

Hospital treatment involves a series of injections with antibiotics or antifungal medicine to treat the infection. An operation may be required to treat any underlying causes or to remove seriously damaged parts of the peritoneum.