Peritonitis symptoms: The 4 early signs of the life threatening infection

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Knowing the early signs of peritonitis could save your life. The infection of the lining of your abdomen can develop into sepsis, another life-threatening condition, or cause damage to the vital organs it protects. If you spot any of the peritonitis symptoms, you must seek medical advice straight away.

Peritonitis is a little-known but highly dangerous infection affecting the lining of your tummy.

According to the NHS: “left untreated, it can become life-threatening.”

The technical term for the tissue lining your abdomen is the peritoneum.

The peritoneum covers your internal organs including your kidneys, liver and bowel.

Peritonitis is incredibly dangerous as an infection in the peritoneum could cause damage to the vital organs it covers.

The most common cause of peritonitis is bacteria entering the gut through a hole in your gastrointestinal tract.

Most often, peritonitis happens as a result of the following conditions:

  • A burst stomach ulcer
  • A burst appendix
  • Digestive problems, such as Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis
  • Pancreatitis surgery
  • Injury to the stomach
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Cirrhosis

Suffering from any of these conditions puts you at greater risk of peritonitis, but what are the warning signs and early symptoms to watch out for?

The NHS urges you to call 111 for advice immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden tummy pain that gets worse when touched or when you move
  • A very high temperature – you feel hot and shivery
  • A rapid heartbeat – your heart is beating more quickly than usual
  • Not being able to pee or peeing much less than usual

You may also experience a lack of appetite, feeling nauseous or vomiting and a swollen tummy.

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If the infection spreads further, it could lead to sepsis.

How is peritonitis diagnosed?

Peritonitis is diagnosed by testing a sample of infected fluid from your tummy.

If the test reveals you have peritonitis, you will be admitted to hospital for treatment to get rid of the infection.

Antibiotics will be administered intravenously to kill the infection, and you may have to stay in hospital for a couple of weeks.

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