Peritonitis is an infection of the inner lining of your tummy. Left untreated, it can become life threatening.

Check if you have peritonitis

Symptoms of peritonitis include:

You might also have:


If you're having kidney dialysis treatment, the fluid in the collection bag might look cloudier than usual or contain white flecks.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have symptoms of peritonitis

Serious complications like sepsis can happen if the infection spreads.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Causes of peritonitis

The lining of the tummy (peritoneum) covers internal organs like the kidneys, liver and bowel.

If the lining becomes infected and you get peritonitis, the internal organs it covers can also be damaged.

This most often happens because of things like:

Rarely, if bacteria gets into peritoneal dialysis equipment used to treat people with kidney failure, this can cause infection.

Treatment for peritonitis

If you're diagnosed with peritonitis, you'll need treatment in hospital to get rid of the infection.

Treatment usually involves being given antibiotics into a vein (intravenously).

If you have regular kidney dialysis, your doctor might discuss a different way of doing it until the peritonitis has been treated.

Help with eating during treatment

It can be difficult to digest food if you have peritonitis.

A feeding tube might be passed into your stomach through your nose or placed inside your stomach using keyhole surgery.

If a feeding tube cannot be used, liquid nutrients can be given directly into one of your veins.

Surgery for peritonitis

If part of your stomach lining has been seriously damaged by infection, you may need surgery to remove it.

Sometimes pus-filled swellings (abscesses) develop in the lining and need to be drained with a needle under local anaesthetic.

You might also need an operation to deal with the cause of the peritonitis. For example, a burst appendix will need to be removed.

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2023
Next review due: 1 August 2026