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Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the thin membrane that lines the abdominal wall and covers the organs inside. It is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.
There are two major types of peritonitis. Primary peritonitis happens when an infection spreads from the blood and lymph nodes to the peritoneum. This type of peritonitis is rare -- less than 1% of all cases of peritonitis.
The more common type of peritonitis, called secondary peritonitis, happens when the infection comes into the peritoneum through a perforation in the abdominal wall.
Both cases of peritonitis are very serious and can be life threatening if not treated quickly.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of peritonitis include:
Primary peritonitis is usually caused by liver disease. Fluid builds up in the abdomen, creating an environment for bacteria to grow.
Secondary peritonitis is caused by other conditions that allow bacteria or fungus to come into the peritoneum from a hole or tear in the abdominal wall. Tears can be caused by pancreatitis, a ruptured appendix, stomach ulcer, Crohn's disease, or diverticulitis. Peritoneal dialysis, which uses the blood vessels in the abdomen to filter waste from your blood when your kidneys can’t, also may cause peritonitis.
The following factors may increase the risk for primary peritonitis:
Peritonitis is an emergency and can be life threatening, so the doctor will first do a physical examination to see whether you need surgery to fix the underlying problem. The doctor will feel and press your abdomen to find any swelling and tenderness. He will also look for signs that fluid has collected in the area. The doctor may listen to bowel sounds and check for difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and signs of dehydration.
The following procedures also may be performed:
To prevent serious complications from peritonitis, get medical help as soon as symptoms appear. If you are getting peritoneal dialysis, you can help avoid peritonitis by cleaning the area around the catheter with antiseptic and washing your hands before touching the catheter.
If you have symptoms of peritonitis, get immediate emergency medical help. You will likely need to stay in the hospital for treatment. You may need surgery to get rid of the source of infection, such as an inflamed appendix, or to repair a tear in the abdominal wall. You will get antibiotics to control infection. You may use complementary therapies along with conventional medicine when you are recovering from peritonitis.
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to kill bacteria and keep the infection from spreading. What is prescribed depends on the type of peritonitis and what's causing the condition.
Surgery and Other Procedures
People with peritonitis often need surgery to remove infected tissue and fix damaged organs.
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
Peritonitis is a medical emergency and should be treated by a medical doctor. Do not try to treat peritonitis with herbs or supplements.
When you are recovering, a comprehensive treatment plan may include complementary and alternative therapies. Ask your team of health care providers how to include these therapies in your overall treatment plan. Always tell your health care provider about the herbs and supplements you are using or considering using.
These good nutrition habits may help you recover from any serious illness:
You may use herbs when you are recovering from peritonitis, but you should never use herbs to treat peritonitis. Ask your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements while you are recovering.
Homeopathy may be used when you are recovering from peritonitis, but do not use homeopathy alone to treat peritonitis. Peritonitis is a medical emergency. Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for peritonitis based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the right remedy.
Prognosis and Complications
Complications from peritonitis can include:
The prognosis for peritonitis depends on the type of the condition. The outlook for people with secondary peritonitis tends to be poor, especially among the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and those who have had symptoms for longer than 48 hours before treatment.
The long-term outlook for people with primary peritonitis due to liver disease also tends to be poor. However, the prognosis for primary peritonitis among children is usually very good after treatment with antibiotics.
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Review Date: 12/16/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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