Healthy Living

Appendicitis: Get the Facts

Appendicitis: Get the Facts

Key Takeaways

  • Appendicitis is an acute or chronic condition which causes inflammation of the appendix
  • Appendicitis is the most common cause of abdominal pain in the US which results in surgery
  • Appendicitis is less common in people who consume foods rich in fiber

Appendicitis is an acute or chronic condition which causes inflammation of the appendix. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it is the most common cause of abdominal pain in the US which results in surgery. It has also been found that about 5% of the Americans have appendicitis at some point in their lives. While appendicitis is more common in people between the ages of 10 and 30, it can affect any person at any point in their lives.

Appendicitis

What are the signs and symptoms of appendicitis?

The following are some of the common signs and symptoms of appendicitis:

  • Abdominal pain mainly around the bellybutton
  • Pain in the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe cramps
  • Painful urination in some cases
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Swelling in the abdominal area
  • Low grade fever (around 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • A feeling that you might get better after passing a stool

If you are experiencing few or more of the above mentioned symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Also do not use any pain remedies, laxatives, or heating pads, as they can rupture the appendix. In rare cases, the appendix ruptures within the first 24 hours of symptoms. The appendix can be lethal if it becomes perforated. The risk of death due to appendix is highest in elderly and infants.

These symptoms can cause immense pain in an individual suffering from appendicitis. This pain is primarily felt in the lower right sight of the abdomen. Pain is exacerbated while coughing, and can lead to nausea and vomiting. There are a plethora of symptoms associated with appendicitis.  Other common signas include loss of appetite, constipation or diarrhea, and a fever that can worse as appendicitis progresses.

What causes appendicitis?

Although the actual cause of appendicitis isn’t known, there are multiple factors that can lead to this condition. Obstruction in the appendix is one such reason. Obstruction may be partial or complete. In case of complete obstruction, surgery is required immediately.

Obstruction occurs when the fecal matter accumulates. It can also be caused due to:

  • Worms
  • Enlarged lymphoid follicles
  • Tumors
  • Trauma

When there is obstruction in the appendix, it multiplies the bacteria in the organ which leads to the formation of pus. The increased pressure compresses local blood vessels, leading to severe pain. When there is limited blood flow to the appendix, gangrene may occur. If due to increased pressure, appendix ruptures, surgery is required immediately.

How is the appendix diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination to diagnose the appendix. During the exam, if the healthcare professional finds tenderness in the lower right side of the abdomen, it may be diagnosed as appendicitis. The pain may be more severe if you are pregnant. Your stomach may become swollen and hard if the appendix have become perforated. Apart from checking for tenderness, your healthcare provider will also perform several other tests such as urinalysis, pelvic exams, abdominal imaging and chest x-ray to confirm the condition. The doctor may also perform pregnancy tests to check for a suspected ectopic pregnancy.

Tests for the diagnosis of appendicitis can vary, and are often based on your health history, as well individual causative factors that can draw a correlation between them and appendicitis. Firstly, a physical examination will be conducted, as it is often the most common test performed for any other disease or condition. This can include a complete review of the abdomen, associated pain, and a rectal exam, if necessary. 

Apart from the aforementioned tests, there are also some indirect methods for diagnosing appendicitis. One of which is a blood test, that enables a doctor to check the white blood cell count. If it is discovered to be abnormally high, than this may indicate an infection. Another test commonly used for a variety of ailments, is a urine test.  A proper urinalysis can determine if the cause of the pain is a urinary tract infection or kidney stone, narrowing down potential causes in the process.

Imaging tests not dissimilar to that of a digital rectal exam, can be implemented if other simpler methods of diagnosis prove unfruitful. These procedures include an abdominal ultra sound or X-ray, or even a computerized tomography (CT) scan.

Treatments for appendicitis

The treatments for appendicitis vary from person to person. In a few cases, appendicitis may heal on its own with just a few medications such as antibiotics and a liquid diet. In majority of cases, surgery is required to remove the appendix. If the infected appendix doesn’t rupture but instead leaks, it can form an abscess. This limits the infection to a small area. If your abscess has not ruptured yet, you will be prescribed antibiotics first. After that, your doctor will drain the abscess by inserting a tube into your body. After your infection has been treated, surgery will be performed to remove the appendix. The surgery can be performed either through open methods or laparoscopy. If the appendix or abscess has been ruptured, surgery is performed right away.

Apart from the obvious doctor-prescribed medications that you will follow in the treatment of appendicitis, there are also some other alternative methods to consider. Their nature is much simpler than you might expect. The primary alternative treatment, is to control pain associated with the appendix. Post-surgery, this can include participating in activities that would otherwise take your mind off the pain. Distractions are often thought of as negative characteristics or traits in an individual, however when managing pain for conditions and diseases, it is encouraged. Go out with your friends, participate in group activities, and even listening to music can make a difference.  

Tips on living with appendicitis

While you can’t prevent the appendicitis, you can definitely lower its risk. Appendicitis is less common in people who consume foods rich in fiber. Therefore, eat a healthy diet containing fresh fruits and vegetables to lower your risk of appendicitis.

If you have been diagnosed with appendicitis, there are few activities you can practice in a post-surgery environment, such as your home. The appendectomy will limit your energy and cause fatigue, so its important to work around this in order to start functioning normally again. One simple yet helpful tip is to support your phenomena with a pillow when you feel a cough coming. This can help alleviate pain in the abdomen. It is also important to get as much as you need.  If you feel tired or fatigued, don't fight it. Instead, try and take a nap or lay down to converse energy.  This will help in recovering from the symptoms associated with the surgery and appendicitis itself.

Alternative treatments for appendicitis

The alternative treatments like herbal remedies, acupuncture and homeopathy are also followed by some people. However, make sure to consult your doctor first before relying on these treatment options. Some may interfere with your current medications and therefore should be avoided.

The signs and symptoms associated with appendicitis should be be underestimated. The condition is severe enough to leave to death if not treated proactively. Be sure to visit your doctor if you or your child are showing signs of appendicitis. This is a severe condition of the abdomen that requires prompt medical treatment.