The peritoneal cavity contains the various organs of the abdomen. The cavity forms a lining the covers the organs and encloses them in a sac. Peritonitis is an inflammation or infection within this cavity. It may be localized to a small area of the abdomen, or may involve the entire abdomen. Symptoms can range from mild pain and discomfort to shock, sepsis (blood poisoning) and death.
Causes of Peritonitis
Peritonitis is caused by intense inflammation of the peritoneal lining that is the result of foreign material or bacteria entering the abdominal cavity. Bacteria gain access to the peritoneal cavity when an organ has been severely damaged or perforated or their is penetrating trauma to the abdomen. Frequent diseases that lead to peritonitis include appendicitis, diverticulitis, peptic ulcer disease, gall bladder disease and bowel obstruction. Some cases of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis, can lead to perforation of the bowel. Pancreatitis can lead to peritonitis as the enzymes of the pancreas produce a form of autodigestion of this organ. Other causes of peritonitis include Pelvic inflammatory disease and ruptured ectopic pregnancy. There are many other causes of peritonitis.
Signs and Symptoms of Peritonitis
Many disorders that evolve into generalized peritonitis may begin as localized diseases. Such localized diseases, such as appendicitis, cholecystitis, diverticulitis, ulcer disease and others, begin with localized symptoms. As an inflection or inflammation spreads through the peritoneal cavity, the pain evolves from localized to generalized. Movement or pressure on the abdomen tends to aggravate the symptoms. Nausea and vomiting occurs. Fever and chills develop. Inflammation of the peritoneal cavity frequently causes the intestines to stop their normal contractions. Fluid collects rapidly in the organs of the abdomen. This leads to abdominal swelling, rapid heart beat and increased thirst. If the diaphragms are irritated (muscles that separate the abdomen and chest and allow for breathing) pain may be felt in the shoulders.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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