What Should You Know About Appendicitis?

Appendix is a narrow, closed-ended, worm-like tube that could be several inches in length and is located near the cecum, also spelled caecum. It is a pouch or large tubelike structure in the first region of the large intestine that receives undigested food from the small intestine. Its worm-like appearance has given it the anatomical name vermiform appendix. The inside coating of this tube secretes mucus that streams through the open central core of the appendix and goes to the cecum.

The appendix wall has lymphatic tissue as a part of the immune system. Like colon this wall also comprises a layer of muscle but here it is poorly developed. The importance of appendix in the human body is still not clear, although experts indicate possibilities of its immune function in young children.  It is important to know that Appendicitis is not genetic, and cannot be transmitted to others. That said, nothing can be done medically to prevent it or reduce the risk of getting it.

Appendicitis is the infection and inflammation of the Appendix. The affliction is caused by blockage of the appendix which is followed by bacterial attack of the appendix wall.  

Causes

Appendicitis happens when the appendix gets infected due to a blockage which is normally caused by:

  • Inflammation
  • Parasites
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Ulcers
  • Abdominal rips or tearing
  • Hardened fecal matter
  • Enlarged tissues

Symptoms

Appendicitis is a common surgical condition and the main symptom is abdominal pain which in most cases initially occurs in the mid area of the abdomen. The other most common symptom is loss of appetite which often gets worse and leads to nausea and vomiting. Some other commonly reported symptoms include abdominal tenderness or swelling, lack of energy, the inability to pass gas, constipation or diarrhea with gas, mild fever. However, Appendicitis can get complicated and lead to rupture, abscess, and peritonitis.

The symptoms are generally seen very quickly i.e. within the first 24 hours. Once you experience any of the symptoms, seek immediate medical help. Best option is to visit the emergency room or call your doctor, particularly if the pain is worsening in the lower right side of abdomen or in the upper right side for pregnant women.

Detection

Doctors detect Appendicitis by going through patients’ history and also through physical examinations. Specific blood tests are not available to identify appendicitis, however, blood samples can indicate rise in WBC count, which suggests possibility of an infection. Doctors also recommend abdominal or pelvic CT scan or ultrasound. For diagnosis of appendicitis in children, medical practitioners generally recommend an ultrasound test. 

Often the varying size and position of the Appendix along with its closeness to other organs, makes it difficult for doctors to distinguish appendicitis from other abdominal or pelvic conditions. Sometimes it is confused with the onset of labour in pregnant women.

Medical practitioners also identify some other conditions that get confused with Appendicitis. These are –

  • Kidney infections
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Right-sided diverticulitis
  • Crohn’s disease of the terminal ileum
  • Inflammatory diseases of the right upper abdomen like – gallbladder disease, liver disease, or perforated duodenal ulcer
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Stomach problems
  • Intestinal blockages

Risk factors

Risk is generally low and roughly 7% of people have the chance to develop appendicitis in their life. The infection mostly affects children in the age group of 10 to 19 years. As a result, it is known as the most common cause of emergency surgery in kids.

Treatment

Treatment for this condition normally includes antibiotics, surgery to remove the appendix might also be a high possibility in certain cases. Major or long-term health complications do not generally result from the surgery.

If the appendix hasn’t burst, surgeons prefer to remove it through laparoscopy, that is by making a small cut in the belly button. The procedure is generally safe for all age groups. It usually takes two to four weeks to completely recover from the surgery.

A caveat! Remember, that if left untreated, Appendicitis could lead to infection and bursting of the appendix which in turn spreads infection and results in inflammation in the lining of the abdomen. In case of a ruptured appendix, there is risk to life and recovery is much longer..

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