Appendicitis

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Appendicitis is the inflammation of appendix. It is the most common cause of abdominal pain worldwide. Know more about it.

AppendicitisIntroduction to Appendicitis

Appendicitis is the medical term used to imply swelling or inflammation of the appendix. A 3.5 inch long tube of tissue extends from where the large intestine starts in our digestive tract located in the abdomen which is called the appendix. It now seems to have become a vestigial organ in our body. We can live without its presence or remove it surgically without apparent consequences. Appendicitis cannot be normally prevented but people who consume a very  fibre rich diet are less prone to it.

Causes of Appendicitis

The main cause of appendicitis is the blockage to the inside of the appendix known as lumen  due to any reason (most commonly faeces).

Bacterial or viral infections with subsequent swelling of lymph nodes (oval-shaped tissues of defence system) can also cause appendicitis. If the blockage persists for long, gangrene (death of tissue) and rupture (bursting) of the appendix can occur.

Symptoms of Appendicitis

Symptoms of appendicitis may include

•             Abdominal pain (belly button and lower right area)

•             Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting

•             Inability to pass gas or flatus

•             Low grade fever

•             Abdominal swelling

Appendicitis is a surgical emergency and anyone with these symptoms needs to see a qualified physician urgently. Infants and young children cannot express themselves to parents or doctors and their symptoms also vary widely. As such if a child is suspected to have appendicitis that child must be rushed to a doctor immediately.

Investigations for Appendicitis

Suspicion is usually based on clinical judgement but certain tests can also guide the doctor. These tests include:

  • White cell count
  • Urine testing with culture
  • Abdominal ultrasound / CT scan

 Treatment of Appendicitis

Pain killers have no role in treatment and it is best to avoid them as they may mask the patient’s true condition. Immediate surgery to remove the appendix is advised to avoid complications. If the diagnosis is not 100% certain, and the doctor suspects that the patient's symptoms may have a nonsurgical or medically treatable cause, the doctor may opt to keep the patient under observation and give intravenous antibiotics and intravenous fluids. However, confirmed appendicitis  requires surgery. Recovery from appendectomy takes a few weeks and people treated surgically for appendicitis recover excellently and rarely need to make any changes in their diet, exercise, or lifestyle. If the appendix ruptures within the body, the patient is more likely to develop an abscess or other complications and recovers more slowly.

Photograph via sxc.hu

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