Appendix – Symptoms, causes and treatment

Appendicitis

 What is an appendix?  

The appendix is a small worm-shaped tube attached to the end of the large intestine in your body. The appendix sits on the lower right side of your abdomen, where the large and small intestines connect. The function of the appendix is quite unclear; however, it has a little significant role to play in your body, at times, it is removed to avoid the risk of developing complications due to infection.

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a condition where your appendix is inflamed, infected or blocked due to any infection. Appendicitis is often characterised by pain (that can range from mild to severe) in your lower right abdomen.

In the chronic conditions of the appendix, the infection gets multiplied inside your appendix. Leading to the formation of pus and swelling. In the worst condition, it may burst (rupture), causing sudden and severe pain in your lower right abdomen. The rupture can spread the infection throughout the body. That’s why appendicitis is treated as a medical emergency, and immediate surgery is required.

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?  

In the condition of appendicitis, you may feel pain in the right lower side of your abdomen. However, the pain starts in your stomach and spreads to the lower abdomen.

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The following are the symptoms of the appendix:

The pain and symptoms may vary, depending on the age and the severity of your appendicitis.

What causes appendicitis?  

Appendicitis is caused when your appendix is blocked or infected, causing inflammation of your appendix. All age groups can be affected by appendicitis. However, the acute cause of appendicitis is quite unclear. The possible causes are as follows:

  • Enlarged lymph tissue in the wall of your appendix
  • Hard stool
  • Any abnormal that can block the opening of your appendix
  • Digestive tract injury or Abdomen injury

How is appendicitis diagnosed?  

Consult a doctor if you find yourself with appendicitis symptoms or suffer from abdomen pain more often. Your doctor will ask for your signs and symptoms.

On physical examination, your doctor will gently apply pressure on the surface of your abdomen to check if your appendix is inflamed.

A blood test gives access to view the count of your white blood cells, the immune system. The count of white blood cells can indicate the infection.

Urine test to check if your abdomen pain is caused by urinary tract infection or kidney stones.

An imagery test (CT, MRI or X-ray), allows you to see the inflammation of your appendix or find out the other cause of your abdomen pain.

Pelvic examination is performed in women to check for the abnormality and severity of your pain and appendicitis.

Appendicitis is common in children. Then symptoms get different in young children. They experience abdominal pain, vomiting, bloated stomach and poor appetite. Your doctor may use an imagery test to diagnose appendicitis in your children.

What are the treatments for appendicitis?  

Appendicitis is treated with antibiotics or medications. If the infection is mild, this happens only in rare conditions. In most of the conditions, your doctor will remove your appendix through surgery.

  • Laparoscopic surgery:

    The surgery is performed with an instrument laparoscope (a thin tube with a camera and light). Your doctor will insert the laparoscope into your abdomen. The camera and light allow your doctor to monitor your abdomen and perform small incisions to remove your appendix with minimal blood loss. Compared to open surgery, recovery is faster in laparoscopic surgery involving small incisions.

  • Open surgery: In a critical situation, open surgery is performed. When your appendix ruptures and starts to spread infection, open surgery is required to remove the appendix and clean the infection. It usually takes between 2 to 4 weeks to resume your normal activities, but you should wait for 5 to 6 weeks to gain full recovery.

What are the complications of appendicitis?

The major complication of your appendix is the condition where your appendicitis rupture. The rupture spreads infection all over your abdominal cavity, causing severe illness, or it may even lead to the cause of death.

Other complications are as follows:

  • Sepsis, the condition when the rupture infection or bacteria travels through your bloodstream. Sepsis can spread the infection from one part to another. Sepsis can cause death in one out of three people.
  • Abscess, the condition where the rupture of appendicitis lead to the formation of pus. The abscess should be removed. It takes time to remove it. You will be asked to take medication to fight against the infection until then. Once your abscess is drained, your appendicitis will be removed by surgery.
  • Abdominal infection, the sudden rupture of the appendix, spreads the infection all over the abdominal cavity, including the peritoneum (the lining tissue or membrane of your abdominal cavity). The affected peritoneum is called peritonitis.

Conclusion  

We can live a healthy life without an appendix. As it serves a minimal function, the absence of an appendix does not affect your health in any way. It is advisable to consult a doctor and go as per your doctor’s advice. However, by practising healthy diet and food rich in fibre you can reduce the risk of getting appendicitis.

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