What is appendix or appendicitis?
Appendix or appendicitis is a condition where the appendix becomes swollen, inflamed, and filled with pus. The appendix is a small finger-shaped pouch on the right side of the abdomen, connected to the colon. The condition can be acute or chronic. When left untreated, appendicitis can cause your appendix to burst. This can cause bacteria to spill into your abdominal cavity, which can be serious and sometimes fatal.
Types of appendicitis include
1. Acute appendicitis
Acute appendicitis is a severe and sudden case of appendicitis in which the symptoms tend to develop quickly over the course of one or two days. The condition requires immediate medical attention.
2. Chronic appendicitis
Chronic appendicitis is less common than acute appendicitis. The symptoms are relatively mild and may disappear before reappearing again over a period of weeks, months, or even years. This type of appendicitis can be challenging to diagnose and, in some cases, it is diagnosed when it develops into acute appendicitis.
Appendicitis may start as mild pain and become steady and serious over time. It may generally start in the upper abdomen or belly button area, before moving to the lower right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- pain in your upper abdomen or around your bellybutton
- pain in the lower right side of your abdomen
- loss of appetite
- abdominal swelling
- inability to pass gas
- low-grade fever
Who is at risk?
While appendicitis can affect anyone, appendicitis risk factors that make a person more likely to develop the condition include:
- Age: The condition mostly affects people between the age of 15 to 30 years old.
- Sex: The condition is more common in males than in females.
- Family history: Having a family history of appendicitis increases the risk of developing the condition in an individual.
- Diet: Low-fibre diets might increase the risk of appendicitis.
The exact causes of appendix inflammation are unknown. However, experts believe appendicitis develops when a part of the appendix becomes obstructed, or blocked. When the appendix gets blocked, bacteria can multiply inside it leading to the formation of pus and swelling. This can cause painful pressure in the abdomen. Things that can potentially block the appendix are:
- a build-up of hardened stool
- enlarged lymphoid follicles
- intestinal worms
- traumatic injury
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
Most patients with appendicitis do not have typical symptoms. Additionally, certain other conditions like gastroenteritis, urinary tract infection, ectopic pregnancy, Crohn’s disease, kidney stones, etc. may have similar symptoms. If an appendix doctor suspects you may have appendicitis, they will perform a physical examination for appendicitis diagnosis, checking for tenderness and swelling or rigidity in the lower right side of the abdomen. Depending on the examination, the doctor may order one or more of the following tests and exams to check for signs of appendicitis.
- Blood tests, to check for infections
- Urine tests, to identify a kidney or bladder infection
- An MRI, a CT scan, or an ultrasound scan, to check if the appendix is inflamed
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How is appendicitis treated?
Appendicitis treatment depends on the seriousness of the condition. If the infection is mild, medicine for the appendix like antibiotics is sometimes used to treat appendicitis. However, such a condition and appendix cure are rare. In most cases, a general surgeon will remove the appendix from the body by performing an appendectomy, a laparoscopy, or an open surgery. The doctor may sometimes recommend a course of antibiotics to shrink the appendix and clear up the surrounding infection and then perform the surgery to remove the appendix. If there is an abscess, the doctor may drain it first and then operate at a later date.
How can the appendix be prevented?
While there is no sure way to prevent appendicitis, according to research, appendicitis is less common in countries where people eat high-fiber diets. One might be able to lower their risk of developing it by eating a diet rich in fiber. This can be done by including foods like,
- Lentils, split peas, beans, and other legumes
- Oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat, and other grains.
The doctor may also encourage a person to take fiber supplements.
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