Appendicitis refers to the painful swelling or inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch (2 – 4 inches long) that protrudes from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen. It can be acute or chronic.
Appendicitis causes pain in the lower right abdomen. However, in the majority of people, the pain starts around the navel and then shifts. With the worsening of inflammation, the pain usually increases and eventually becomes severe.
Although anyone could develop appendicitis, most frequently, it occurs in people aged between 10 and 30 years. The standard treatment of appendicitis is the surgical removal of the appendix.
Read on to know more about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment for appendicitis.
What Are The Common Appendicitis Symptoms?
The following are some common appendicitis symptoms.
Pain in the lower right abdomen is known to be the most common appendicitis symptom. This pain:
- May start in the region around your navel or belly button and move to the lower right side of your belly. However, it may also start from the lower right side of your belly.
- Often worsens over time.
- It may feel worse while you’re coughing, sneezing, moving, being touched, or taking deep breaths.
- It can be felt all over your belly if your appendix bursts out.
Other common appendicitis symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Swollen belly
- Trouble passing gas
People are advised not to take pain medicines as they can suppress other symptoms about which your healthcare provider may need to know to diagnose the condition.
Appendicitis symptoms may appear like other health problems, so always consult your doctor to be sure.
What Causes Appendicitis?
In the majority of cases, the apparent cause of appendicitis is unknown. Experts believe it happens when a part of your appendix gets blocked or obstructed. Several things can block your appendix, including:
- Traumatic surgery
- Intestinal worms
- A buildup of hardened stool
- Enlarged lymphoid follicles
When your appendix blocks, bacteria can multiply inside it. This can result in the formation of pus and swelling, which can cause painful pressure in your abdominal region.
Other health conditions can also cause pain in the lower right abdomen, including gas, indigestion, kidney infection, hernia, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or kidney stones.
So, you must consult your healthcare provider on experiencing pain in the lower right abdomen.
Possible Complications Of Appendicitis
If left untreated, appendicitis often gets progressively worse, leading to serious complications, such as:
- A ruptured appendix: When the appendix ruptures, it leaks its contents throughout the abdomen (Peritonitis). This is a potentially life-threatening condition that demands immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.
- Formation of pockets of pus in the abdomen: If your appendix bursts out, you may develop a pocket of pus (abscess).
A surgeon usually drains the pockets of pus by placing a tube through your abdominal wall. The tube is left in place for nearly two weeks, and you are prescribed antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Once the infection is healed, you’ll have surgery to remove the appendix. In certain cases, the pockets of pus are drained, and the appendix is removed promptly.
How Is Appendicitis Diagnosed?
A healthcare provider diagnoses appendicitis by doing the following:
Reviewing the symptoms
You will be asked about what symptoms you’re experiencing, how severe they are, and for how long they have been present.
Reviewing your medical history
To eliminate the possibility of other health conditions, your doctor may ask about your complete medical history. These may include:
- Any other health condition or surgery you may have or had in the past
- Whether you take any medications or health supplements
- Whether you consume alcohol or use any recreational drugs
Doing a physical examination
To gain more insights into your stomach pain, the doctor may take your physical examination.
In this exam, they will touch or put pressure on some areas of your abdomen. Rectal or pelvic exams may also be conducted.
Ordering laboratory tests
Blood tests and urine tests can confirm the diagnosis of appendicitis or detect signs of other health problems. If necessary, your doctor may also order imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI, or abdominal ultrasound.
These imaging tests can reveal:
- A blockage within the appendix
- An enlarged or burst appendix
How is Appendicitis Treated?
Since an inflamed appendix can burst, causing serious, deadly infection, appendicitis is considered a medical emergency. For this reason, in nearly all circumstances, your healthcare provider will advise you to get your appendix removed surgically.
The appendix can be removed via open surgery or through laparoscopy.
Open surgery (Appendectomy): You are given general anesthesia. The surgeon then makes a cut in the lower right side of your abdomen, finds your appendix, and removes it.
If the appendix has already burst, a small tube may be placed to drain the pus and other fluids in the abdomen. The tube will be taken out in a couple of days when your surgeon feels the infection is cleared.
Laparoscopic method: A general anesthesia is given. This surgery involves several small cuts or incisions and a camera to view the inside of your belly. The surgical tools are placed through some small incision, and the laparoscope is placed through another small incision.
The Laparoscopic method is generally used when the appendix has burst.
If your appendix hasn’t burst, you’ll recover from an appendectomy in just a few days.
But if your appendix has burst, you may take longer to recover, and you’ll need to take antibiotic medicine also.
You can live a normal life even without an appendix. Changes in diet or exercise are generally not required.
Can You Prevent Appendicitis?
There’s no definite way to prevent appendicitis, but you may be able to lower your risk by eating a fiber-rich diet.
Although more research is required to support this notion, appendicitis is less common in countries where people eat high-fiber diets.
Foods rich in fiber include:
- Brown rice, oatmeal, whole grains, whole wheat
- Beans, lentils, split beans, and other legumes
Your healthcare specialist may also advise you to take a fiber supplement.
What Are The Common Risk Factors For Appendicitis?
Anyone can have appendicitis, but some people are more likely to develop the condition than others. Common risk factors for appendicitis include:
- Age: Appendicitis usually occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30 years old.
- Sex: Appendicitis is more common in men than women.
- Family history: People having a family history of appendicitis are at an increased risk of developing it.
Although more extensive research is needed, low-fiber diets may also increase the risk of appendicitis.
What Are the Types Of Appendicitis?
There are two types of appendicitis: acute and chronic.
In acute appendicitis, the symptoms are usually severe and develop gradually. In chronic appendicitis, the symptoms are often milder and may come and go over several weeks, months, or even years.
Appendicitis can also be simple or complex. In simple cases of appendicitis, there are no complications. While complications like an abscess or ruptured appendix or ruptured appendix.
Are There Any Home Remedies For Appendicitis?
Appendicitis is a serious condition that needs immediate medical treatment. So, if you experience any appendicitis symptoms, it’s recommended to consult your doctor right away.
If you undergo surgery to remove the appendix, your doctor may also prescribe some antibiotics and pain relievers for faster recovery.
In addition to taking those medicines as prescribed, it might help to:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get lots of rest
- Keep the surgical and incision sites clean and dry
- Take a gentle walk each day
- Avoid vigorous exercise and lifting heavy objects until your doctor recommends its safe for you to do so
In some cases, doctors may also encourage you to change your diet. If you feel nauseated after the surgery, it might be beneficial to eat bland foods such as plain rice, toast, etc.
If you’re constipated, your doctor may recommend you take a fiber supplement.