- Appendicitis can either be chronic or acute.
- Appendicitis is most commonly observed among people aged 10 to 20 years old.
- If not detected and treated early, appendicitis might become a serious problem that could be fatal.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain not only in the United States but in the whole world. It is said that in America alone, 5 percent of the population have experienced appendicitis at one point in their lives. In England, 1 in every 13 people had developed the disease at one point in their life with 40,000 people being admitted to the hospital each year.
The scariest fact, however, is that appendicitis is most commonly observed among people aged 10 to 20 years old. Being a life-threatening condition, appendicitis poses a threat, especially to the younger generation. Therefore, it is important that young people, as well as parents, are well-acquainted with its causes, symptoms, and treatment measures.
Appendicitis is a condition that affects the appendix. The appendix is a finger-shaped pouch that is attached to your large intestine. It is interesting to note that even to this point, many scientists and medical practitioners still do not know the definite function of the appendix. For a long time, the appendix has been considered as a kind of a useless organ that one could do without. This understanding may be partially right, as up to now, most people who have had their appendix removed have not experienced any complications. However, recent research has found that the appendix could play a more important role in the body than previously thought.
What causes appendicitis?
Whatever the thoughts about the importance of the appendix, it is clear that any damage or unnecessary alterations to the appendix can lead to fatal consequences. Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix. When the appendix is inflamed, it is likely infected with germs, which usually leads to a gradual buildup of pus. If not detected and treated early, appendicitis might become a serious problem that could be fatal. The appendix might burst and cause the contents of the large intestine to leak into the abdominal cavity.
The reason behind the inflammation is not entirely known. Most healthcare professionals, however, do agree, that the most apparent cause for appendicitis might be a blockage that occurs in the short appendix. The blockage can be due to some factors. One could be a hard stool that could get stuck in the short appendix.
Indigestible food passed from the small intestine may also cause complications in the large intestine where little digestion takes place. They are usually forced out by the muscles of the appendix, but sometimes, the appendix might fail to do its job, and the food gets stuck in the appendix, which causes a blockage. Whatever causes the blockage, it is not a good thing for the large intestine or the appendix. The blockage creates a good breeding ground for germs, which thrive right behind it, at the dead end of the appendix.
What are its symptoms?
The main symptom of appendicitis is abdominal pain. It is, however, important to differentiate between chronic appendicitis and acute appendicitis. With chronic appendicitis, the pain is often mild and subsides on its own, which makes chronic appendicitis very dangerous, as many people will dismiss it as just a small stomach upset that will disappear on its own. If chronic appendicitis is not treated, it develops into a more serious condition like in the case of an acute appendicitis that causes severe pain.
Other common symptoms include a loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, constipation, and fever. It is worthy to note that many of these symptoms are identical to other diseases. Nausea and loss of appetite might be mistaken for common illnesses like malaria. Thus, it is important for people to get the right diagnosis to confirm their exact illness.
To answer the question as to whether appendicitis is a lifelong condition: no, it is not. When appendicitis is diagnosed, the procedure to remove the appendix (appendectomy) is done to stop the problem. Remember that you need an appendix to have appendicitis, and once it is removed, then you have completely solved the problem.
Dealing with the chronic condition
Appendicitis is a chronic condition, which means that it causes problems to the body for a fairly long time. It causes the appendix to swell, thereby, causing irritation, or in extreme cases, the appendix might burst. If it ruptures, it could cause severe problems concerning the life of the individual. Most of the time, if neglected or during an early phase, the inflammation goes unnoticed. When it becomes severe, it requires urgent medical care, thereby, threatening the life of the patient in worst cases. If diagnosed early, it can be treated. The appendix, being a vestigial part of the body, is removed in most cases. Appendicitis can be dealt with easily if it manifests itself in the early stages and does not alter the normal functioning of the bowel or cause any irritation in that area. However, it stays for a fairly long time in some patients, depending on the extent to which the appendix has been affected.
Diagnosis and care
While there is no specific age when appendicitis will strike, care must be taken at every phase of life. Any illnesses, bouts of fever, irritation, or trouble with defecation are possible predisposing factors of appendicitis and must be taken into notice. Once these symptoms develop, consultation with the doctor is a must.
The diagnostic tests that can confirm the presence of appendicitis include blood tests, urine analysis, and a physical examination, particularly in the abdominal area. In some scenarios, ultrasound scans can give the best confirmatory result.
If the patient is otherwise healthy and ready for surgery, an operation is performed to remove the vestigial organ from the body before it ruptures. After healing, the body continues to function normally. However, like in any other surgical case, having your appendix removed also requires a special diet and precautions for a few days in terms of the type of food consumed. One must ensure to take good care of the surgical area to avoid having further complications. Along with this, a return checkup, continued medication, and necessary diet restrictions are equally important and essential for a faster recovery.