Appendicitis is a sudden inflammation of the appendix, a small, finger-like pouch located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. Several medical practitioners are still unclear of the exact function of the appendix, and its absence doesn’t interfere with daily bodily functions.
The inflammation of the appendix occurs due to a blockage, an infection, or a disease, causing intense pain and life-threatening conditions if not promptly diagnosed and treated.
Appendicitis affects people of all ages and races; however, the condition has a higher incidence in men. In the US, up to 9% of Americans have experienced abdominal pain resulting in surgery at one point in their lives.
This medical article discusses the causes, signs and symptoms, complications, and treatment for an appendicitis attack.
Causes of Appendix Pain
Several factors such as enlargement of the lymph nodes, death of cells in the appendix, abnormal tissue changes, or infection by bacteria can be responsible for the development of appendicitis.
The most common cause of appendicitis is an infection of the digestive tract or waste blockages such as feces or food particles in the vermiform appendix.
A bacterial infection of the appendix can lead to acute medical complications like sepsis, gangrene, or a perforated appendix.
New data are emerging, documenting the transition in the epidemiology of appendicitis from children to adults. These data illustrate that appendicitis is highest in young adults between 5-45 years old and aged adults between 80-85 years old.
In addition, the average age of adult patients with appendicitis has decreased over the past 40 years. Appendicitis incidence has decreased significantly during this period due to improvements in diagnostic and therapeutic modalities and increased awareness.
Stages of Appendix
Appendicitis can either be acute or chronic, depending on the severity of your condition. Acute appendix pain is quite common and frequently diagnosed with intense symptoms that progress rapidly without treatment.
Chronic appendicitis has a low rate of occurrence and a slow rate of progression. Appendicitis can become a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery if it ruptures.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
Even though many appendicitis symptoms are common, they could also be signs of other ailments. The person can get different diagnoses before the doctor figures out what’s causing the pain. The most common symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tenderness at a particular point in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
It is difficult to diagnose the symptoms of appendicitis amongst aged adults and loved ones suffering from other underlying conditions. For any of the symptoms above, see your doctor for professional advice.
During an appendicitis examination, your doctor will apply pressure to your lower abdomen to detect signs of severe discomfort. Your doctor may order a laboratory to confirm his diagnosis. Lab tests your doctor may collect include:
- Blood analysis
- Abdominal computerized tomography
- Urine test to confirm a kidney infection
- MRI, or CT-scan to check for appendix inflammation
Appendicitis can lead to life-threatening conditions if it ruptures. A ruptured appendix causes the rapid spread of infection to the peritonitis and can lead to severe complications if not treated surgically.
Additionally, a ruptured appendix can lead to abscess formation in the abdomen. Your doctor can treat this condition using a tube to remove the abscess over a short while (2 weeks).
The most frequently recommended treatment for appendicitis is a procedure called an appendectomy. This procedure involves the removal of the appendix. If ruptured, your doctor will administer antibiotics to treat infection and clean the abscess from your abdomen before performing an appendectomy.
Appendectomy is often recommended to patients because the procedure is minimally invasive, and the recovery time is higher. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers to help manage pain and discomfort.
Some studies show that consuming a low fiber diet can increase the risk of developing this condition. It is thought that the best way to prevent appendicitis is to consume diets rich in fibers such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as experts believe that consuming these foods reduces the risk of developing this condition.
If you suspect you have appendicitis, consult your physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment.