The earliest symptom of appendicitis is experiencing pain in the lower right abdomen. The pain of appendicitis occurs suddenly and gets more intense with time. Pain may occur around the naval in some people.
Other symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to pass gas
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. It is the most common condition for emergency surgeries in the United States. Appendicitis can affect anyone; however, it is most common in people 10 to 30 years of age.
The appendix is a small tube-like organ that is connected to the large bowel (colon). It is usually present in the right lower part of the belly. The appendix has no known essential function in the body (vestigial organ). The length of the appendix may vary with age.
Appendicitis occurs when the appendix gets blocked leading to increased pressure, altered blood flow, and inflammation. Appendicitis is a medical emergency. Untreated appendicitis may cause the appendix to burst. This results in the release of the infection in the abdomen causing a serious condition called peritonitis. The blockage of appendicitis may be caused by stools, worms, or swollen lymph tissue within the wall of the appendix.
When the appendix gets blocked, it cannot empty the fluid and mucus it makes. This leads to swelling and rising pressure within the appendix. This further provides a suitable environment for bacteria to grow. The swelling also disturbs the blood supply to the appendix. Lack of blood supply may cause the death of the affected parts leading to a hole (perforation) through which infection can spread to the rest of the abdomen (peritonitis).
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
For the diagnosis of appendicitis, your doctor will take a detailed history of your symptoms. They will examine you to look for the signs of appendicitis, such as tenderness in the abdomen and fever. They may order certain tests, such as abdominal ultrasound, X-ray, and CT scan. Blood tests do not tell whether you have appendicitis. They may, however, tell whether you have an associated infection.
Can appendicitis be treated without surgery?
Surgical removal of the appendix (appendectomy) is needed in most cases of appendicitis. The appendix has no known important functions in the body. Thus, its timely removal in a case of appendicitis gives the best results. In certain less severe cases of appendicitis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. This is usually followed by surgery. This is because untreated appendicitis can burst and cause serious complications, such as peritonitis and painful collection of pus (abscess) in the body.
If the appendix has not burst, it may be removed through a small surgical cut in the belly button (keyhole or laparoscopic appendectomy). Laparoscopic appendectomy can be done in people of all ages. The recovery with this procedure typically takes between 2-4 weeks.
In complicated cases, such as when the appendix has ruptured, open surgery may be needed. The recovery in the case of a ruptured appendix is often longer.
Thus, you must seek urgent medical care if you have any symptoms of appendicitis. Timely management gives the best results.
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Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis often causes sings and symptoms such as abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant, nausea, vomiting, abdominal tenderness, fever, and loss of appetite.
Delay in surgery can result in appendix rupture with potentially serious complications.
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