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Diseases & Conditions

Appendicitis

AppendicitisCausesDiagnosisFollow upPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatment

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a painful medical condition that occurs when the appendix (a small tubular shaped pouch attached to the lower intestine) gets inflamed or blocked with a danger of getting ruptured or burst. It can even prove to be fatal.

Causes of Appendicitis

There is no reason why appendicitis occurs in some people. One of the obstructing objects can be fecal matter. Viruses, fungi, parasites or bacteria can be responsible for infections that cause the inflammation of the tissues lining the appendix wall. Some of these agents can be adenovirus, Yersinia species, actinomycosis, cytomegalovirus, Mycobacteria species, Schistosoma species, histoplasma species, strongyloides stercoralis and pinworms. Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease may also cause swelling of the tissues.

In case the appendix gets blocked and continues to get remain that way, the inflamed tissue can get infected with bacteria and starts to decay due to lack of oxygen. This finally results in perforation or bursting.

Diagnosis of Appendicitis

Diagnosis of appendicitis is made based on the classic symptoms and actual physical examination of abdominal area by a trained doctor. Lab work consists of blood sample that is sent for analysis to find out the white blood cell count. In a person with appendicitis, these counts are typically elevated. Urinary tract infection can be eliminated by doing a urinalysis. In case appendicitis diagnosis is not apparent, imaging tests may be ordered. Medical centers may order a CT scan of the pelvic and abdominal areas. Ultrasound scanning may be ordered for children so as not to expose them to radiation arising out of CT scans.

Follow up

After a no complications appendectomy, it is possible for the affected individual to gradually go back to a normal diet and lifestyle. Physical activity is restricted for only 2-4 weeks. A week after the surgery, the doctor will inspect the points where incisions were made to check for possible wound infection.

Prevention of Appendicitis

The timing of Appendicitis cannot be predicted nor can it be prevented from occurring. There are no certain risk factors responsible for appendicitis. Research seems to suggest that heredity, infection and a diet high in sugar and low in fiber may be potential risk factors.

Risk of Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a fairly common condition affecting 6-9 % of the total population. While people belonging to any age group may be infected, the most incidences occur teenage years and during the 20’s.

There have been rare cases of prenatal and neonatal appendicitis also. An increased vigilance is required to recognize and treat potential appendicitis cases, especially among the very young and elderly people as these two groups have a higher propensity to get complications.

Symptoms of Appendicitis

  • Appendicitis most often starts with some kind of vague pain originating in the center of the abdomen, mostly near the umbilicus or navel. From there, the pain spreads to the right lower part of the abdomen (near the right hip) during the following twenty four hours. Appendicitis abdominal pain can be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, fever and lack of appetite. A suffering person may have a combination of the symptoms.
  • Appendicitis takes between 4-48 hours to fully develop. During this time, the person may complain of diarrhea or constipation.
  • The early symptoms are difficult to distinguish from many other medical conditions such as gastroenteritis (inflammation of intestines and stomach).

Treatment of Appendicitis

The best treatment option for appendicitis is surgery so that the appendix may be removed before it ruptures or bursts open. This kind of surgery is called an appendectomy which is now days done laproscopically. This is a minimalist invasive ‘keyhole’ procedure where incisions are made in abdominal area. A small camera guided by the surgeon assists in the removal of the appendix. In some cases, however, an open surgical procedure may be required for removal of the appendix.