What is appendicitis?
The appendix is a small tube-shaped organ attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen.
Appendicitis occurs when your appendix becomes inflamed most likely due to a blockage. When your appendix is blocked, bacteria can multiply inside it rapidly, leading to the formation of pus and swelling. This condition can cause painful pressure in your abdomen. Appendicitis can also block blood flow; hence it should be treated immediately.
There are two types of appendicitis
- Chronic appendicitis causes mild, frequent abdominal pain that often subsides on its own. This type is less common. The patient usually doesn’t realize they have appendicitis until an acute episode takes place.
- Acute appendicitis is a severe form of appendicitis. Pain tends to develop and intensify rapidly over the span of 24 hours. This condition requires immediate medical treatment. If it is left untreated, it can cause the appendix to rupture. This can be very serious and even fatal complication.
Appendicitis is most common in children and young adults.
Symptoms of appendicitis
The key sign of appendicitis is severe abdominal pain in the lower right belly and the pain worsen when you move, cough, or sneeze. Other symptoms include:
- Swollen belly
- Inability to pass gas
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- The feeling that having a bowel movement will release discomfort
Causes of appendicitis
It’s not clear what causes appendicitis, however there seems to be some connection with a family history. There is no way to recognize if or when you might get appendicitis. This condition mostly arises due to a gastrointestinal infection (viral, bacterial, or fungal) that has spread to the appendix or an obstruction that blocks the opening of the appendix.
Reasons that can cause blockage of appendix, include:
- a buildup of hardened stool
- enlarged lymphoid follicles
- intestinal worms
- abdominal injury
- irritation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract
The risk of appendicitis has also been connected to air pollution. Scientists believe that excessive levels of ozone in the bowel can cause inflammation and increase infection susceptibility.
Diagnosis of Appendicitis
There is no single test that can be used to diagnose appendicitis. Doctors will conduct a variety of tests to acquire the information they need to diagnose appendicitis, after learning about a patient’s medical history and recent pattern of symptoms. Your doctor could:
- Examine your abdomen to check for pain and inflammation.
- Take a blood sample to determine the number of white blood cells in your body, which may suggest an illness.
- To rule out a urinary tract infection or kidney stones, get a urine test.
- In a woman, perform a pelvic exam.
- Use imaging tests, such a computerized tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to confirm the diagnosis
Complications of appendicitis
Appendicitis can cause serious complications if appendix ruptures, which can cause bacteria to spill into your abdominal cavity. A ruptured appendix can lead to potentially life-threatening infections, such as:
Abscess: An appendicular abscess, or a pocket of infected pus may develop. Drainage tubes will be inserted into your abdomen to extract fluid from the abscess. It could take a week or more for the drainage to complete. You’ll have surgery to remove your appendix after the abscess is gone.
Peritonitis: The lining of your abdominal cavity, called the peritoneum, can become infected and inflamed if your appendix bursts and bacteria flows into your abdominal cavity. Peritonitis is the medical term for this condition.
Sepsis: Bacteria from a burst appendix can enter your bloodstream and cause infection, leading to sepsis, a life-threatening illness. Many of your organs become inflamed as a result of it.
Treatment of appendicitis
Mostly people who have appendicitis require an appendectomy. It is used to remove an appendix that has become infected. Antibiotics are given intravenously (IV) before surgery to prevent infection. Antibiotics alone can help some cases of mild appendicitis. When the appendix ruptures, surgery is the only option to cure the abdominal infection.
Most appendectomies are performed laparoscopically. It is performed through small incisions using a scope. This minimally invasive procedure allows you to heal more quickly. If your appendix ruptures, you may need significant abdominal surgery (laparotomy).