Appendicitis

What is Appendicitis?

It is a condition characterized by an inflammation of the appendix, a small sac-like structure attached to the colon. The acute and chronic cases of this disorder were first described in 1886 by an American physician named Reginald Heber Fitz.

Types of Appendicitis

The condition is differentiated into two types. These are:

Acute Appendicitis

It arises due to a total blockage of the vermiform appendix and in some cases, a bacterial infection. It is the most common cause of abdominal distress and pain in children as well as teenagers across the world.

Chronic Appendicitis

It is a milder form of the condition and is quite rare. It develops slowly and s characterized by the inflammation of the appendix. The symptoms are generally less pronounced in this form with some sufferers only experiencing a general feeling of illness and fatigue. The signs of this syndrome may vary from person to person.

What Causes Appendicitis?

Some of the main causes of Appendicitis include:

  • Physical blockage – Obstruction of the appendix by stool or foreign objects can give rise to this syndrome.
  • Cancer – In rare cases, a cancerous tumor may also be a cause of the blockage of appendix.
  • Infection – Obstruction may also occur due to an infection. An infection in the body can make the appendix get inflamed as a natural reaction.

Appendicitis Symptoms

The classic symptoms of Appendicitis are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Mild pain near the upper abdomen or the navel which becomes sharp on shifting to the lower right abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever, with body temperature between 99° and 102° F
  • Abdominal inflammation (swelling)

Some other symptoms arising in half of all Appendicitis sufferers include:

  • Acute cramps
  • Painful urination
  • Sharp or dull pain arising anywhere in the lower or upper abdomen, rectum or back
  • Diarrhea or constipation with gas

Appendicitis Diagnosis

Appendicitis is generally diagnosed with the aid of physical examination and laboratory tests. Doctors usually press the lower right abdominal region in a gentle manner. If pain aggravates even on mild touch, it can be an indication of Appendicitis. In later cases, the condition is usually diagnosed with the aid of medical tests like:

  • Abdominal X-ray exam, to detect inflammation
  • CT scans
  • Ultrasound scans
  • Blood test, to check whether the body is combating infection
  • Urine test, to rule out a urinary tract infection
  • Laparoscopy

For most sufferers of this disorder, blood test serves as an essential diagnostic test. In some cases, a rectal examination is conducted to check for tenderness on the right side of the rectum.

Appendicitis Differential Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Appendicitis can be quite confusing as the symptoms of the disease are often vaguely or extensively similar to other conditions, such as

  • Bladder infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Gastritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Intestinal infection
  • Problems in the ovary or gallbladder

Differential Diagnosis aims at distinguishing Appendicitis from the above-mentioned conditions. The varying location and size of the appendix and its proximity to other organs can make it hard to differentiate it from other disorders.

Appendicitis Treatment

Treatment for this condition is mainly surgical. If a sufferer is not found to suffer from complications, the appendix may be removed with the aid of an operative procedure known as Appendectomy.

If diagnosis reveals an abscess from a torn appendix, the infection must be treated first. In such cases, the appendix will be removed after the inflammation and infection have gone away.

Appendicitis Surgery

Appendectomy is the standard surgical procedure used for curing this condition. Before surgery, antibiotics are administered to stave off possible Peritonitis. The operation is carried out under general anesthesia and removed through laparoscopy. Patients generally get up within 12 hours of operation and return to normal activities within 2-3 weeks.

Appendicitis Prognosis

The prognosis of this condition is usually quite good after cure. If the appendix is removed prior to its rupture, recovery is likely to be faster after surgery. If the rupture occurs before operation, recovery will probably be slower and more likely to give rise to other complications. An abscess may also develop in some cases.

Appendicitis Recovery

In sufferers of Appendicitis, time for recovery depends on factors like age, complications and other situations, such as the amount of alcohol consumed by the person. Usually, patients make a recovery between 10 and 28 days. Young kids, who are around 10 years old, take about three weeks to recover.

Appendicitis Complications

Most patients of this disease easily recover after surgical treatment. However, complications may arise if treatment is delayed or if there is a development of Peritonitis. If not treated in time, this disorder can give rise to complications like:

  • Abscess
  • Peritonitis, a type of infection within the abdomen
  • Unusual connections between the skin surface and the organs (fistula)
  • Abnormal connection between abdominal organs
  • Obstruction of the intestine
  • Infection arising from surgical wound

Appendicitis Prevention

It is not possible to prevent this condition. However, the disorder has been found to be less common in individuals who consume foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables and fresh fruits.

If you or anyone in your family are suffering from acute pain anywhere in the abdomen, along with fever and vomiting, it is best to call a medical practitioner immediately. If the symptoms persist for over four hours, medical evaluation should be performed urgently at a doctor’s office or a hospital.