Left untreated, peritonitis can lead to severe health problems and even become fatal.
So how do you know if you or a loved one might be suffering from peritonitis? What treatments are available? When should you seek medical attention for peritonitis? We put together this guide to help you understand peritonitis.
Causes of peritonitis
Peritonitis comes from a fungal or bacterial infection. The infection can result from injury to the abdomen, an underlying condition, or a medical device. Causes of peritonitis include:
Trauma to the stomach (i.e., knife or gunshot wound)
Digestive conditions (i.e., ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, and Crohn's disease)
End-stage liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver)
Certain medical procedures, like peritoneal dialysis
Invasion medical device, like a feeding tube
Signs and symptoms of peritonitis
Symptoms of peritonitis can vary from person to person. However, the most common signs are:
Severe stomach pain that gets worse with movement
Tenderness in the abdomen
Fluid in the stomach
Constipation or unable to pass gas
Low urine output
Unexplained weight loss
If you receive peritoneal dialysis, you may also experience
cloudy or white clumps in the dialysis fluid
redness or pain around your catheter
Peritonitis treatment options
Peritonitis can lead to sepsis, causing organ failure and death when left untreated. Therefore, you should immediately seek medical attention if you develop any signs or symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will review your medical history, do a physical exam, and examine a sample of the infected fluid taken from your abdomen to diagnose peritonitis. To determine the problem, they may also perform x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and blood or urine tests.
If you are diagnosed, you will most likely be admitted to the hospital. Treatment for peritonitis typically starts with intravenous (IV) antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Surgery may be necessary if the peritoneum is severely damaged or to correct the root cause of the infection, like appendicitis.
If you have cirrhosis or ascites, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent peritonitis.
Although peritonitis can be a complication of peritoneal dialysis, you can lower your risk by:
Thoroughly wash your hands and under fingernails before touching the catheter
Following your physician's instructions on the care and storage of medical supplies
Cleaning catheter site daily
Reporting any contamination of dialysis fluid to your peritoneal dialysis nurse. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a single dose of antibiotics to prevent an infection.
Peritonitis can quickly become a deadly medical condition. Seeking medical attention at the start of symptoms is essential for anyone with peritonitis to receive adequate treatment.
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