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Appendicitis: Symptoms, causes, prevention and treatments

Team AckoSept 6, 2022

Appendicitis is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain. Thus, it’s best to have a basic understanding of this medical condition to initiate timely action if required. This article highlights the common Appendicitis symptoms, causes, risks and treatments to create awareness about this condition.

Appendicitis

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a condition wherein the appendix gets inflamed. Appendix is a tube-shaped organ that is appended to the large intestine. Appendicitis is triggered by the blockage of the appendix and is generally followed by the development of an infection. It typically occurs in individuals between the ages of 10 to 30 years.

Types of Appendicitis

These are the two commonly occurring Appendicitis types.

  1. Acute Appendicitis: This type of Appendicitis is characterised by severe abdominal pain that worsens quickly. This condition occurs more commonly in men, and if not treated immediately, could even lead to death.

  2. Chronic Appendicitis: This type is as common as the previously discussed type. However, the Appendicitis symptoms in this type are milder and more recurrent, making it hard for physicians to diagnose.

Signs and symptoms of Appendicitis in men, women and children

It can be difficult to detect the early symptoms of Appendicitis in some individuals, especially in children. Nonetheless, some of the common signs and symptoms of Appendicitisin men, women and children usually include the following.

  • Pain in the lower abdomen

  • Loss of appetite

  • Diarrhoea or constipation

  • Cramps

  • Enlarged belly

  • Nausea

  • Low-grade fever

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Flatulence

  • Abdominal pain that increases when you walk or cough

  • Bloating of the abdomen

What are the causes of Appendicitis?

Although the exact cause of this health condition is unclear, the following are some of the probable causes.

  • A block in the opening of the appendix by hardened stools that may result in an infection.

  • An infection in the digestive tract that gives rise to the swelling of tissues in the appendix wall.

  • Irritation and inflammation of the intestines. Also referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The following are some of the complications that may result from Appendicitis.

  • A ruptured appendix: A rupture in the appendix can cause the infection to spread to the rest of the abdomen. If immediate treatment is not administered, this could even lead to death.

  • Sepsis: The appendix houses bacteria that are usually harmless. In this complication, the bacteria in the appendix start attacking the walls of the appendix and end up spreading to other parts of the body.

  • Pus in the abdomen: In some cases, pus may store up in the abdomen. This is usually treated by draining out the pus using tubes and giving antibiotics to subside the infection. 

How to diagnose Appendicitis

Appendicitis is generally diagnosed using the following tests.

  • Urine test: This test is prescribed to verify if the Appendicitis symptoms you are experiencing are just a consequence of a urinary tract infection or due to the presence of kidney stones.

  • Chest imaging tests: The signs and symptoms of Appendicitis are typically similar to that of the development of Pneumonia in your lower lungs. Hence, doctors may order a CT scan to check the lungs and rule out this possibility.

  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) test is usually prescribed by doctors to detect any Appendicitis-related bacterial infections. In addition to this, a C-reactive protein test may also be suggested to find out if there are any other causes for the appendix inflammation.

  • Pregnancy test: Ectopic pregnancy is sometimes misdiagnosed as Appendicitis. Doctors are generally able to differentiate the two using specific tests.

  • Abdominal imaging tests: These types of tests are usually prescribed to see the extent of inflammation of the appendix visually. They include scans like MRI, ultrasound, CT scan, or X-ray. Also, some of these tests may require prior fasting.

Treatments for Appendicitis

Appendicitis is usually treated by the surgical removal of the appendix. This procedure is called an appendectomy. This operation is generally done to prevent the rupture of the appendix. Alternatively, if an abscess has also developed, there are usually two procedures administered. One to drain out the puss and the other to surgically remove the appendix. It is also important to note that in some cases, Acute Appendicitis can be treated with antibiotics alone.

What does an appendectomy entail?

Here's how a typical appendectomy procedure is carried out.

  • Before the procedure begins, you will be given antibiotics to combat the infection.

  • After that, you will be put under general anaesthesia. So, you will be asleep throughout the procedure.

  • Once you are unconscious, your appendix will be removed either via a 4-inch incision or a laparoscope.

  • If you also suffer from peritonitis (enlargement of the peritoneum), your surgeon will allow the pus to drain out and then cleanse your belly.

Prevention of Appendicitis

Unfortunately, there is no established method to prevent the onset of Appendicitis. That being said, it is speculated that the consumption of fibre-rich food can prevent this condition. The following food items are also recommended to prevent getting Appendicitis.

  • Whole wheat

  • Beans and legumes

  • Fruits

  • Brown rice

  • Lentils

  • Vegetables

  • Oatmeal

Frequently asked questions

The following are some of the frequently asked questions regarding Appendicitis symptoms, causes and treatments.

What is peritonitis?

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Peritonitis is a condition where the peritoneum becomes swollen. The peritoneum is a thin inner lining of the abdominal cavity. Peritonitis is usually caused by the development of a fungal or bacterial infection.

What are some of the adverse consequences of undergoing an appendectomy?

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Generally, you may be able to recover from an Appendectomy with little or no discomfort. Nonetheless, in some cases, the following side effects may show up, and in such cases, your doctor must be consulted for medical advice.

  • Fever

  • Belly pain

  • Pus in the region of the operation

  • Vomiting

  • Blood-laced vomit or pee

  • Redness and pain in the operation site

  • Dizziness

How long does an appendectomy last?

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An appendectomy procedure usually lasts around 12 hours (commonly completed within 12 hours). If laparoscopy is performed instead of surgery, this duration could be much shorter.

How to detect appendicitis at home?

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You can detect appendicitis at home by its early signs and symptoms. Once you suspect having the disease, immediately consult your doctor for advice on tests and treatment options.

How long does it take to recover from an appendectomy?

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It may take about two to three weeks to completely recover after enduring an appendectomy. If you underwent a laparoscopy, on the other hand, the recovery time is usually faster. This is because laparoscopy is a less invasive procedure.

How long does it take for the appendix to burst?

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The appendix generally bursts after 36 to 72 hours of experiencing continuous Appendicitis symptoms. This is called appendix rupture. This condition can be avoided by addressing the early symptoms of Appendicitis with treatment.

Reference:

https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/digestive/appendix/appendicitis

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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