NOTE: In his role as a general surgeon, Dr. Higgins is often called upon to perform emergency appendectomies and to see patients who are experiencing the symptoms of appendicitis. The following information is for your education only. Never attempt to diagnose yourself or anyone else. If you see these symptoms developing, get to a qualified physician … quickly.
THE AVERAGE APPENDIX is under four inches long, but that tiny sac can cause tremendous problems when it becomes inflamed. Do you know someone who has undergone an “emergency appendectomy”?
Wait too long, and appendicitis can be a life-threatening condition.
Here’s a brief guide that will help you recognize the symptoms of appendicitis.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix — a relatively small part of the digestive system. It is a worm-shaped, thin pouch that is attached to the large intestine. For most people, the appendix is on the forward side of the body, though in others the appendix is pointed backwards.
Although anyone can suffer from appendicitis, it is common between the ages of 10-30 years.
What are the symptoms of appendicitis?
Here are some of the common symptoms of appendicitis:
- Sharp pain: The pain usually occurs on the right side of the lower abdomen. The intensity varies, and some people even report they initially felt appendix pain near the bellybutton or lower back. The pain worsens when your abdomen or legs are moved (like coughing or sneezing).
- Chills and fever: Along with the pain, you may experience shivering, chills, and fever. You body temperature may also become elevated.
- Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite: When appendicitis develops, these symptoms normally occur together. 90 percent of those afflicted by appendicitis report these symptoms. Unfortunately, these signs are often confused with other medical problems.
- Constipation or diarrhea: Appendicitis patients often suffer from constipation and diarrhea. These can be confusing symptoms.
What causes of appendicitis?
Appendicitis is caused when this small sac — the appendix — is blocked and the blood flow is obstructed. Pressure is increased, and inflammation results. If it is not treated in time, the organ may burst and spread the infection all through the abdomen. That is a serious situation.
What is the best treatment for appendicitis?
The standard treatment for appendicitis is surgery to remove the appendix. That surgery is known as “appendectomy.”
Antibiotics are sometimes used while the diagnoses is in progress — but most medical professionals agree that antibiotics can’t “cure” appendicitis.
To verify the condition of the appendix, your physician may order a CT scan or ultrasound. A CBC (complete blood count) to measure the proliferation of white blood cells (an indication of infection) is also a normal part of the work-up.
Itis crucial that the severity of the condition be determined and an appendectomy performed without delay, if the diagnoses warrants.
Can appendicitis be prevented?
There is still no accurate way to prevent appendicitis, but you can consider the following things to reduce the risks of appendicitis:
- Include more fiber-rich fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Learn to spot the signs of appendicitis at an early stage, then get a proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent further inflammation
Those are the five questions we get asked most about appendicitis. Always remember that early diagnosis and quick treatment are essential. Should the symptoms set in … get medical attention fast.