What is Appendicitis

Your appendix is a small, tube-like structure that is attached to the large intestine. It is located in the lower right part of the abdomen. The appendix has no known purpose and its removal does not have any affect on the digestive system or its process.

When a person is diagnosed with appendicitis, they have an inflammation of the appendix. Once a person starts to have an inflammation of the appendix there is no known treatment or cure other than to perform surgery to remove the appendix. Not having the appendix removed would be a medical emergency. When removing the appendix is delayed it can burst, which would cause infection of the abdominal cavity and possible death.

Common in the ER

Appendicitis is the most commonly known acute emergency of the abdomen seen in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices. Anyone, male or female can get appendicitis, but it happens most often to those individuals between the ages of 10 and 30.

Appendicitis is caused by a blockage of the inside of the appendix (lumen). The blockage causes pressure, a lack of blood flow, and inflammation. If the blockage is not surgically treated, gangrene and rupture of the appendix results. A rupture is a breaking or tearing of the appendix. Usually what blocks the appendix is feces. Bacterial or viral infections in the digestive system can also lead to swelling of the lymph nodes, which then squeeze the appendix and cause the obstruction.

Symptoms

Individual who have appendicitis may experience pain in the abdomen that may radiate first around the belly button, and then moves to the lower right area of the abdomen. They may experience loss of appetite, constipation or diarrhea, an inability to pass gas, vomiting and nausea, a low grade fever that may occur after other symptoms have existed and they may also notice abdominal swelling.

Symptoms may vary from one person to another. The pain may worsen, and then move. The pain may increase when the person takes a deep breath, coughs or sneezes. The right lower abdominal area may be tender to the touch. Individuals with these symptoms should not take laxatives or pain medications. A medical professional should see anyone with these symptoms immediately.

Complications

Special caution should be taken with those individuals who have diabetes, have the HIV virus, have immunosuppressive therapy such as being on steroids, or who have cancer and are receiving chemotherapy, or individuals who are obese as these individuals may not be able to experience the intensity of symptoms that would warn them of the appendicitis but may just feel, “unwell”.

Individuals who are elderly, women who are pregnant, and the very young children or infants have special concerns too.

Pregnant women often have abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting as normal pregnancy symptoms and may not recognize these as signs of appendicitis, unless they know that any pain on the right side of the abdomen is to be taken seriously and a doctor notified immediately.

Infants and young children cannot communicate the symptoms of pain adequately to alert adults to the seriously of their symptoms. A physical exam and a good medical history are needed to make the correct diagnosis.

Elderly individuals do not feel abdominal discomfort as acutely as younger individuals and so the symptoms may go unnoticed until the appendix bursts and then the situation is serious, even life threatening.

Anytime anyone has pain on the right side, no matter how slight, with a low-grade fever should contact his or her doctor for an examination.

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