The signs of peritoneal irritation include tenderness in the abdomen, fever and chills, loss of appetite, abdominal bloating, and nausea and vomiting, according to Healthline. The patient also experiences constipation, fatigue, abdominal pain that intensifies with touch or motion, diarrhea and excessive thirst.
The peritoneum is a thin tissue lining the inner abdominal wall and covers most of the abdominal organs. Inflammation or irritation of the peritoneum is called peritonitis, claims MedlinePlus. There are two kinds of peritonitis: spontaneous bacterial peritonitis that results from infection of peritoneal cavity fluid, or liver or kidney failure, and secondary peritonitis that occurs from an infection that spreads from the digestive tract, notes Healthline. Conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, a stomach ulcer, a perforated colon, an abdominal injury or wound, or cirrhosis of the liver can cause peritonitis.
To diagnose peritonitis, the doctor asks the patient about his medical history and performs a full physical exam that includes pressing or touching the abdomen to detect discomfort. The patient also undergoes a complete blood count to measure his white blood cell count, since a high count indicates infection or inflammation. If the patient has a fluid buildup in his abdomen, the doctor uses a needle to obtain some and sends it to a lab for analysis. The patient also undergoes imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scans to detect perforations in his peritoneum.
If peritonitis is not treated quickly, it can be fatal, since the infection may enter the bloodstream and trigger shock and damage to the other organs, warns Healthline.