Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small, tube-like organ that hangs from the intestines. It appears to have no clear function.
There are two particular types of appendicitis, based on their severity, duration and how they manifest.
- Acute Appendicitis: Develops very fast, usually in a span of several days or hours. It is easier to detect and requires prompt medical treatment, usually surgery.
- Chronic appendicitis: Is a rare condition and unlike acute appendicitis that comes on suddenly and intensely, chronic appendicitis is an inflammation that can last for a long time. It only occurs in only 1.5 percent of recorded acute appendicitis cases.
Symptoms usually come on suddenly. Pain generally increases during a 6- to 12-hour period. Patients may experience some or all of the following Symptoms:
- Starts as discomfort around the belly button
- Usually moves to the right side of the abdomen over several hours
- May be in a different location if the appendix is not in the usual place
- Increases as inflammation in the appendix builds
- Worsens with sneezing, coughing, and deep breathing
- May increase with movement
Loss of appetite , nausea, vomiting, swelling of the abdomen, abdomen feels hard and is sensitive to touch, constipation or mild diarrhea
If the appendix ruptures, symptoms include:
- Pain becoming stronger and spreading across the abdomen
- Increasing fever
Appendicitis usually occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. This can be caused by something trapped in the appendix (such as a piece of dried stool, a piece of food, worms) or by an infection.
Appendicitis can be hard to diagnose. Symptoms vary and can be similar to symptoms of other diseases.
The exam includes:
- Inquiring about symptoms and medical history
- Carefully touching the abdomen and observing your body's reactions
- A rectal exam
Other tests to determine the cause of your pain may include:
- Blood Tests – to see if there is an infection
- Urine Tests – to rule out a urinary tract infection
- CT Scan or Ultrasound – to look for signs of an inflamed appendix or abscess that may be causing the pain. These tests are only helpful in cases of late appendicitis.
Laparoscopy – looking at the appendix through a thin, lighted tube inserted through a small incision near the belly button.
Appendicitis is treated by surgically removing the appendix as soon as possible. If the diagnosis is not certain, the condition can be carefully monitored for 6 to 12 hours before operating. Antibiotics are given to fight infection. In humans, the appendix doesn't perform any important function and having it removed doesn't cause any long-term problems.
There are no guidelines for preventing appendicitis because it comes on suddenly and the cause is usually not known. To decrease the risk of rupture, it is important to seek medical care immediately for severe abdominal pain. However, some effective lifestyle changes and dietary tactics may help reduce your risk for it. A high-fiber diet for instance is a prevention strategy against appendicitis. Since appendicitis can be caused by infection, it makes sense to maintain good immune system health to prevent falling victim to it. This can be done by consuming a well-balanced diet with probiotics and following healthy lifestyle strategies like managing stress levels and getting enough exercise.
If appendicitis isn't treated, the appendix can burst and cause potentially life-threatening infections. If the appendix bursts, it releases bacteria into other parts of the body. This can cause a condition called peritonitis if the infection spreads to the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen. If peritonitis isn't treated immediately, it can cause long-term problems and may even be fatal. Sometimes an abscess forms around a burst appendix. This is a painful collection of pus that occurs as a result of the body's attempt to fight the infection. It can also occur as a complication of surgery to remove the appendix in about 1 in 500 cases.
People of any age can get the condition, though appendicitis is most common among teenagers and those in their twenties. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 5 percent of the population will develop appendicitis at some point in their lives.
The recovery time for an appendectomy is variable and depends on the type of the procedure, type of anesthesia, and any complications that may have developed. For example, laparoscopic appendectomy may be done on an outpatient basis so that the patient can be discharged to recover at home, while an open method may require an overnight stay or an even longer time to be discharged to go home. Normal activities can resume in a few days but full recovery may take 4 to 6 weeks during which time strenuous activity should be avoided.
Acute appendicitis requires surgery. Post-operative care may require diet, medication and rest. If the appendicitis is mild, there are a few strategies that can be used to reduce symptoms and prevent further inflammation.
In case of symptoms of appendicitis, it is recommended to see a health care provider. Avoid the use of laxatives or enemas as they can cause the appendix to rupture, especially when the infection has developed to a more severe level. Even when a healthcare provider has provided the patient with antibiotics to treat the infection, the use of an enema or laxatives should be strictly avoided. Even though the condition may be somewhat painful, it is recommended to avoid using any type of pain medication.