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Appendicitis: Everything You Need To Know

By Rashmi B G

Have you ever felt severe pain in your naval region? Or have you felt nauseous and been vomiting very frequently? Or do you feel that you cannot eat enough and lost your appetite?

If your answer is yes, then you probably might be going through appendicitis.
Yes! Appendicitis is a common problem among young adults which has a severe impact on their health.

appendicitis signs

What Is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a small finger-shaped pouch connected to your large intestine. Appendicitis occurs when your appendix is blocked and inflamed. If this blockage continues, it leads to rupture of the appendix due to infection of the inflamed tissue and lack of blood supply.

Appendicitis is a condition in which the appendix gets swollen and filled with pus. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US, appendicitis is one of the major problems and a cause of severe abdominal pain, requiring a surgery. It is estimated that 1 in every 10 people develop appendicitis at some point in their life.

Appendicitis can occur at any age, but it is most commonly found in young people aged between 10 and 30 years.

Causes Of Appendicitis

The exact cause of appendicitis is not known. It usually occurs due to the obstruction of the appendix by faecal material. Infection by bacteria, fungus, viruses and parasites lead to swelling of appendix tissues causing appendicitis.

Peritonitis, an inflammation of the tissue lined to the abdominal wall might also result in a ruptured appendix.

Symptoms Of Appendicitis

The symptoms of appendicitis are multiple and may take about 4 to 48 hours to develop. An early symptom would be pain near the navel or upper abdomen, which slowly moves to the lower abdomen. Other common symptoms of appendicitis would be:

• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Lack of appetite
• Mild fever, which may increase later on
• Abdominal swelling or bloating
• Constipation or diarrhoea
• Pain while coughing or working etc.

The symptoms vary from person to person and may either be seen individually or maybe a combination of multiple signs.

If you suspect to have appendicitis, you should avoid taking laxatives, as it may cause your appendix to burst.

When To Seek Medical Help?

Consult your doctor if there is an early symptom of pain in the abdominal region with fever or vomiting. If the symptom continues for more than four hours, a medical evaluation should be done immediately.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of appendicitis would be a tricky task, as the symptoms are similar to that of other abdominal problems such as:

• Constipation
• Gastroenteritis
• Bladder or urine infection
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome etc.

To diagnose appendicitis, your doctor would ask about your symptoms and examine your abdomen. If your symptoms are of a typical nature, your doctor will conduct various tests, which include:
• Physical exam to assess your pain - your doctor would put a gentle pressure on your abdomen to assess the pain and to check the rigidity and stiffness of the abdominal muscles.
• Blood test - it is conducted to get a count of white blood cells which may indicate any signs of infection.
• Urine test - it allows your doctor to check whether a bladder infection or a urinary tract infection or kidney stones is what is causing you pain.
• Imaging tests - include abdominal X-ray or a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan or abdominal ultrasound scan to identify the cause of your pain.
• Pelvic exams - it helps your doctor to ensure that there is no pelvic infection or any reproductive problems.
• Pregnancy test for women - to rule out the possibility of ectopic pregnancy.
In case the diagnosis is not certain, your doctor may recommend you to wait for up to 24 hours to observe whether the symptoms remain the same, increase or decrease.

Treatment

If you are diagnosed with appendicitis, the doctor will suggest you to have your appendix removed. The operation through which appendix is removed is known as an appendectomy.

It is a standard treatment in most of the cases, to prevent the rupture of the appendix. The surgery is commonly performed through laparoscopy. It allows you to recover faster and heal with less pain. You will be given a dose of antibiotics before surgery, to prevent any infection. Hence, you may be advised not to eat or drink anything before this period.

If the appendix has formed an abscess, the pus and fluid would be drained out before performing the surgery. After appendectomy, you may need 2 to 6 weeks to recover and resume your normal routine. It is advised to not engage in much of physical activity during this period. Your doctor will examine you regularly to look for a possibility of wound infection.

Antibiotics As A Treatment For Appendicitis

In the recent years, research has suggested that acute appendicitis, without a ruptured appendix, but pus-filled abscesses can be treated with antibiotics alone. This treatment involves less pain, has fewer complications and less costly in comparison with surgery.

But there is still no proven facts that antibiotics alone have been helpful in treating appendicitis. It is also suspected that there is a greater possibility of recurrence of the condition in case of antibiotics-only treatment. In a very rare probability, appendicitis might get better with only antibiotics.

Which Is The Best Way To Treat Appendicitis And Why?

The treatment for appendicitis depends upon the varying levels of symptoms of each patient. But, the most commonly used and the standard treatment is an appendectomy.

Appendectomy is considered to be the best way to treat appendicitis since it involves the removal of the appendix. The doctors prefer to adopt an appendectomy even when the diagnosis is uncertain because even the slightest possibility of appendix rupture could be avoided through it.

Since there is no clear picture of the functions of the appendix, having it removed would not impact the functionality of your body. But, if you have an infected appendix, it will lead to other abdominal problems and affect your overall health.

Another advantage of appendectomy is that there would be no chance of appendicitis occurring again, as the appendix has been completely removed. Although it involves a little pain and takes some time for your recovery, Appendectomy would be the best treatment for appendicitis.

But, it is not advisable to make your own decision in this regard and is always better to consult your doctor before taking any further steps.

Appendicitis Prevention

It is not possible to prevent appendicitis from occurring, as there are no proven risk factors. But, you can lower the risk by including high fibre in your diet. Few examples of fibre-rich foods are oat bran, wheat germ, brown rice, kidney beans, fruits etc.

So, if you are having any of these symptoms, do not neglect it. Consult your doctor as soon as possible to avoid any kind of severe impact.

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ALSO READ: Hand Wash Or Soap: Which Is Effective In Killing Germs?

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