What is Appendicitis?
A painful swelling of the appendix is Appendicitis. Appendix is a small, thin pouch like part connected to the large intestine and up to 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) long. It is connected to that part of the intestine where excreta are formed.
There are three Types of Appendicitis
1. Acute Appendicitis
- Severe and sudden, the symptoms of Acute Appendicitis tend to develop over a course of two or three days. It requires immediate treatment as it can cause the appendix to rupture. It is a serious and fatal complication.
2. Chronic Appendicitis
- Symptoms of Chronic Appendicitis are less common and relatively milder than Acute Appendicitis.
- A challenging condition to diagnose the symptoms disappear and reappear again over a period.
- Chronic Appendicitis can be dangerous as it can sometime do undiagnosed until it develops into Acute Appendicitis.
3. Appendicitis in Children
- In children, Appendicitis causes stomach-ache around the navel. This pain becomes severe and gradually moves to the lower right side of the abdomen. Loss of Appetite, Fever, Nausea, and Vomiting are some common Signs of Appendicitis in children.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
Appendicitis Symptoms are mainly pain in the stomach which comes and goes.
- The pain is experienced in the middle of the stomach (abdomen region) and feels like a spasmic pain that occurs intermittently.
- Within a few hours, the pain gradually moves to the lower right-hand side which is where the appendix lies. Once it moves to this position, the pain becomes more constant and severe.
- The pain worsens if pressure is applied to this area, Walking or Coughing. Loss of Appetite, Constipation, Diarrhoea and feeling sick are some other Signs of Appendicitis.
Who is at Risk?
- Appendicitis is a common condition and affects almost 5 out of 10 people each year.
- Once can get Appendicitis at any age but it generally affects people aged between 10-20 years of age.
Appendicitis Risk Factors include:
- Those between the age group of 15-30.
- More common among males than females.
- People with a family history of Appendicitis are at a greater risk of developing it.
- A Diet with low fibre is also known to raise the risk of Appendicitis.
Causes of Appendicitis
What causes Appendicitis is not very clear. In most cases, the entrance to the appendix is blocked.
- At times, the blockage can happen because of a small piece of faeces stuck at the entrances.
- An infection on the upper respiratory tract could also cause the lymph node inside the wall of the bowel to swell. Obstruction to the entrance causes swelling or inflammation leading to increased pressure to the appendix. When the pressure increases, it can even cause the appendix to burst.
How is Appendicitis diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects Appendicitis, then he will perform a physical examination where he will check for tenderness in the lower part of your abdomen, swelling or rigidity. Depending on what the doctor feels, your doctor may suggest one of the Appendicitis Tests to check for signs of Appendicitis. There is no single test available for Appendicitis Diagnosis. If a doctor cannot figure any other cause of symptoms, then they may diagnose the cause as Appendicitis.
The tests that doctors generally recommended are as follows:
1. Complete Blood Count
A Complete Blood Count involves collecting a sample of blood that is sent to the lab for analysis to check for bacterial infection that generally accompanies Appendicitis. Infection in the urinary tract or abdominal organs causes symptoms that are like that of Appendicitis.
2. Urine Test
A urine test is conducted to rule out urinary tract infection or kidney stones.
3. Pregnancy Test
Ectopic pregnancy can also be mistaken for Appendicitis. A doctor may perform a pregnancy test if they suspect an ectopic pregnancy.
4. Pelvic Examination
A pelvic exam may be conducted to check for any condition that may affect your reproductive organs.
5. Abdominal Imaging Tests
The following imaging tests may be prescribed by the doctor to check for inflammation of the appendix. These tests also help to identify other causes of the symptom like abdominal abscess or fecal impaction.
- Abdominal Ultrasound
- Abdominal X-Ray
- Abdominal CT Scan
- Abdominal MRI Scan
How can Appendicitis be treated?
The most common Appendicitis treatment is the removal of the appendix. The removal of the appendix is a procedure called Appendicectomy or Appendectomy. It is one of the most performed operation and the success rate is good too. The operation is carried out as a Keyhole Surgery (laparoscopy). There are several cuts made in the abdomen that allows special surgical instruments to be inserted into the abdomen.
An Open Surgery, where a large single cut is made in the abdomen, is made when the appendix bursts or access is difficult. Recovery after an appendix operation takes a couple of weeks. One is advised to avoid strenuous activity for a couple of weeks after the surgery.
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How to Prevent Appendicitis.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent appendicitis, but one can lower the risk of developing it by eating a fibre-rich diet. Studies until now have shown that Appendicitis is uncommon in countries where there is a fibre rich diet. It is advised to include the following in one’s diet to have a meal that is rich in fibre:
- Lentils, beans, split peas, and legumes
- Whole wheat, whole grains, brown rice, and oatmeal
- Recommended fibre supplement to compensate for a low fibre diet.