Abdominal Pain: Appendicitis | Revere Health

Although scientists know the existence of the appendix in the human body isn’t random, its exact purpose is yet to be confirmed. The appendix is a tube that extends from the beginning of the large intestine and has been theorized to be a reservoir for “good bacteria”, although some believe it’s simply a remnant of evolution. Doctors are fairly confident, however, that the human body can survive without it.

Though the cause is unknown, the appendix can sometimes become inflamed and burst, leaking materials that may cause infection in the abdomen. About one in 15 people will get appendicitis, and without the right treatment, appendicitis can be fatal.

Causes and Possible Complications

Blockages of the appendix are the main factor in appendicitis. These blockages can be caused by cancer, stool material or other foreign items in the appendix. The appendix also swells in response to an infection in the body, which can also lead to blockages of the appendix.

If appendicitis isn’t treated immediately, two complications can result:

  • Ruptured appendix: This occurs when the appendix ruptures and spreads infectious material in the abdomen. This infection is called peritonitis and requires immediate surgery to clean the abdomen and remove the appendix. Without quick and proper treatment, a ruptured appendix can cause death.
  • Pus in the abdomen: Pockets of pus or infection may form in the abdomen if the appendix bursts. These pockets are drained using special medical tubes or drains. Antibiotics are also a key part of treating these infections.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Dull abdominal pain: This is often the first sign and can start near the belly button or in the lower right of the abdomen.
  • Poor appetite
  • Swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Inability to pass gas

There are other symptoms that may only be present in about half of all appendicitis cases, including:

  • Painful urination
  • Severe cramps
  • Constipation or diarrhea

If you have any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. The speed of treatment can be vital for appendicitis recovery.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Because many of these symptoms are similar to other gastrointestinal conditions, a few tests are commonly used to distinguish appendicitis from other medical conditions:

  • Abdominal exam (a medical professional carefully feeling and checking your abdomen)
  • Rectal exam
  • Urine test (to assess for urinary tract infections, which can produce symptoms similar to appendicitis)
  • CT scans or ultrasounds of the abdomen and pelvis
  • Blood test (to look for signs of inflammation and infection)

There are no definitive ways to prevent appendicitis, but blockages and infections of the appendix appear to be slightly less common in people who eat high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables.

In almost all cases, surgery is the best for appendicitis. This surgery is called an appendectomy—the removal of the entire appendix.

General anesthesia is normally used for an appendectomy, and the immediate recovery after surgery can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the severity of the infection. Although you can usually return to light activities, including non-strenuous work, after the immediate recovery, it can take a few weeks before you’re well enough to resume all of your normal activities.

If you’re exhibiting symptoms of appendicitis, don’t hesitate. Call your doctor right away and schedule an immediate examination.

If you need a colonoscopy, make an appointment with Revere Health. Our gastroenterologists have performed over 200,000 comprehensive colonoscopies. We use the latest technology and equipment to ensure accurate results.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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