Appendicitis is a painful condition that involves the infection and resulting inflammation of the appendix. The most common symptoms would be terrible abdominal pain and swelling to nausea and loss of appetite. Although appendix seems like an unnecessary organ, in fact, in 2015 about 11.6 million cases of appendicitis occurred which resulted in about 50,000 deaths. The symptoms should never be overlooked.
Appendicitis is simply an inflammation of the appendix, a thin, worm-shaped pouch attached to the large intestine. The situation almost always requires prompt surgery to remove the appendix. If left untreated, an inflamed appendix will eventually burst or perforate, spilling infections materials into the abdominal cavity.
Experts believe that there are two likely causes of appendicitis. It occurs when the appendix becomes blocked, often by stool, a foreign object, or infection.
The common symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is usually the first sign.
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
- Abdominal swelling
- High fever
- Inability to pass gas
Almost half the time, other symptoms of appendicitis appear including:
- Sharp pain anywhere in the upper or lower abdomen, back, or rectum
- Painful urination and difficulty passing urine
- Vomiting that precedes the abdominal pain
- Severe stomach cramps
- Constipation or diarrhea with gas
Sometimes people do have the abdominal pain, but then the appendix ruptures and the pain is relieved so they think they’re fine. When it ruptures, fluids can seep into the abdomen and cause an infection called peritonitis, which can be life-threatening. A ruptured appendix requires immediate surgery to remove the tissue and clean the abdominal cavity to prevent that.
Not everybody has their appendix in the same place; some are located behind the colon, behind the liver, or in the pelvis.
Diagnosing appendicitis can be tricky. Symptoms of appendicitis can be frequently vague and mistaken as common stomachache caused by diarrhea, constipation, or bladder and urinary tract infection. In diagnosing appendicitis, the following tests are usually used:
- Blood test to check for infection
- Urine test to identify kidney or bladder infection
- Abdominal exam to detect inflammation
- Rectal exam
- CT scans and/or ultrasound
Sometimes the doctor will decide to surgically remove the appendix because it is too risky to wait for tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Appendectomy or surgery to remove the appendix is the standard treatment for almost all cases of appendicitis. Laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive (MIS), Band-Aid surgery, or keyhole surgery is also a common type of surgery to treat appendicitis. Laparoscopic surgery is more precise than appendectomy, so it results on minimal loss of blood, less scaring, and the patient will recover much faster.
Complications of appendicitis
There are a few possible complications of appendicitis, such as:
If the appendix ruptures and releases the infection into the abdomen, the patient may develop peritonitis, which in an infection and inflammation of the peritoneum. The peritoneum is the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers most of the abdominal organ. Peritonitis may cause the bowels to shut down and stop bowel movements. The patient will develop a fever and could go into shock.
If the infection seeps out of the appendix and mixes with intestinal contents, it may form abscess. If left untreated, abscess can cause peritonitis. Abscess can be sometimes treated with antibiotics.
There is no way to prevent appendicitis. However appendicitis may be less common in people who drink much water and eat foods high in fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables. So if you often has bowel problem and encounter the symptoms of appendicitis, go see your doctor immediately.