Appendicitis is a serious condition that refers to the inflammation or infection of the appendix. Often accompanied with abdominal pain and fever, among other symptoms, the condition can become life-threatening if not treated on time.
It’s vital to seek urgent medical care to treat appendicitis.
What is appendicitis?
An appendix is a small, tube-like organ, typically around 4 inches in length and resembling a finger, protruding from the lower right section of the large intestine.
In appendicitis, the appendix becomes painfully inflamed. Without medical attention, the inflammation and pain can keep worsening.
Usually, what causes appendicitis is a blockage inside the appendix. As a result of this blockage, pressure and bacterial infection begin to build up within the appendix. The bacteria proliferation results in inflammation.
The blood circulation to the appendix is obstructed too. As the infection takes over the appendix, the organ slowly starts to die.
Severe complications can happen if the condition isn’t recognised and treated properly. As the infection and swelling deteriorate, the appendix may eventually rupture, spilling the bacteria into other parts of the abdomen.
This is a medical emergency and requires urgent appendicitis treatment.
Appendicitis causes and risk factors
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes appendicitis in many cases. Here are some common causes that can lead to appendicitis:
- Infection in the digestive tract
- Stool buildup
- Worms or parasites in the intestines
- Injury or trauma to the abdomen
- Obstruction at the connecting point of the intestines and the appendix
- Growths like tumours
- Swelling of intestinal lymph nodes
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Presence of foreign substances like bullets
Even though appendicitis can happen to anyone regardless of age, certain groups of people may be more at risk than others. Let’s understand some common appendicitis risk factors to be aware of:
- People in the age group of 10-30 are especially vulnerable
- A history of appendicitis in the family can increase the risk
- Greater occurrence in males as compared to females
- Diabetes and use of steroids in adults
- Cystic fibrosis in children
Look out for the following appendicitis symptoms to detect the condition in time. The onset of symptoms can be sudden and progress rapidly.
Initially, you may feel pain near the navel or upper abdomen. It can then travel to the lower right section of the abdomen at the location of the appendix. Any movements as simple as coughing can further aggravate the pain.
Major appendicitis symptoms include:
- Bloated belly
- Mild fever
- Problems with passing urine
- Vomiting and nausea
- Loss of appetite
Types of appendicitis
There are two key types of appendicitis: chronic and acute.
In chronic appendicitis, the inflammation of the appendix can last for a long period, ranging from weeks to even years. The usual appendicitis symptoms like abdominal pain and fever are mild and may come and go for this duration which can make the diagnosis difficult.
It’s less common and urgent than acute appendicitis but needs diagnosis and treatment before it becomes more severe.
This is the more prevalent and dangerous form of appendicitis. It’s when the condition develops suddenly and rapidly. The abdominal pain can present and become severe within just a couple of hours.
Lack of prompt treatment can cause the appendix to burst, leading to further complications.
Appendicitis tests and diagnosis
The appendicitis symptoms can often mimic symptoms of other diseases. Therefore, doctors use a mix of different tests as well as detailed knowledge of symptoms and medical history for appendicitis diagnosis.
The doctor will begin by asking about symptoms and personal and family medical history. Next, they’d perform a physical examination of the abdomen to check for pain, tenderness, and inflammation.
Following the physical exam, your doctor may order a few lab and imaging tests to arrive at a definite diagnosis.
A blood test may be ordered to check for white blood cell count; a higher count can imply that the body’s fighting off an infection. A urine test may be done to rule out other suspects for the symptoms, like a urinary tract infection.
If the tests so far point towards appendicitis, imaging tests like an ultrasound, a CT scan, and an MRI can be done to form a clearer view of the abdomen and finally confirm the condition.
After the confirmation from the appendicitis tests, you should seek appendicitis treatment at once to minimise complications resulting from appendix rupture.
The standard treatment for appendicitis is appendectomy, a procedure through which the appendix is removed.
To begin with, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics for the infection. Rarely, if the appendicitis is mild, antibiotics alone could be enough to treat it. However, more often than not, taking out the appendix is necessary.
If the appendix ruptures, a procedure to drain the abscess developed around the appendix will need to be performed before the appendectomy.
Appendectomy can be performed in two ways: laparoscopy or laparotomy.
- Laparotomy is an open abdomen surgery that requires making one large incision on the abdomen. It may be opted in complicated cases like when the appendix has burst, causing the infection to spread to other areas.
- Laparoscopy is done via multiple small incisions requiring minimal invasion. These incisions are used to insert tools like a laparoscope and others for appendix removal. Quicker recovery and lesser pain are some of the benefits of the laparoscopy method.
The choice between the two procedures is made after evaluating each specific case.
Abdomen pain is quite common and may happen for any number of reasons. It can be tricky to assess when it’s because of something serious, like appendicitis. When abdominal pain occurs and intensifies abruptly, it can indicate appendicitis and shouldn’t be ignored.
We offer comprehensive appendicitis treatment at the CK Birla Hospital, from open and laparoscopic appendectomies to compassionate post-operative care. Supported by advanced imaging diagnostics, a team of highly qualified medical professionals, and world-class surgical equipment and methodology, we adhere to the highest standards of healthcare quality.
If you think you or a family member might be experiencing symptoms, seek medical help immediately. Visit the CK Birla Hospital near you or book your appointment with experienced Gastroenterologists to get an accurate appendicitis diagnosis and best-in-class medical expertise.