A sudden inflammation or swelling of the appendix is called appendicitis. The appendix is a tube-like structure that branches off where the large intestine (colon) begins. It's pencil-thin and normally about 7 cm (4 inches) long. For many years, scientists were unsure of the function the appendix had in the body. Now we know it helps make immunoglobulins, substances that are part of the immune system. Immunoglobulins are made in many parts of the body. Thus, removing the appendix does not seem to result in problems with the immune system. Appendicitis is rarely fatal these days, due to today's use of antibiotics and safe surgery. The condition affects 1 in 15 people and strikes men more than women. It hardly ever affects children under 3 years old. It occurs most commonly in people between 10 and 30 years of age.
Complications of Appendicitis
The most serious complication of appendicitis is an infection of the lining of your abdominal cavity (peritonitis). This may occur if your appendix ruptures (perforates) and the contents of your intestines and infectious organisms invade the peritoneal cavity. Peritonitis is a medical emergency.
Causes of Appendicitis
The cause of appendicitis isn't always clear. Sometimes appendicitis can occur as a result of:
Signs & Symptoms of Appendicitis
Symptoms of appendicitis include:
If you have symptoms of appendicitis, do not take enemas or laxatives to relieve constipation: These medicines increase the chance that the appendix will burst. Also, avoid taking pain-relief medicines before seeing your doctor, because these medications can mask appendicitis symptoms and make diagnosis difficult.
Diagnosis of Appendicitis
The diagnosis of appendicitis may vary from person to person depending upon the symptoms. It can be tricky as they are similar to other complaints, such as bladder, stomach, intestine or urinary related problems. The doctor will ask about a brief medical history of the patient and proceed accordingly. Pressure on the abdominal area is applied to check whether the pain increases or not. If your physician is not too sure whether you have appendicitis, you may have to wait in the hospital for a long time – before a decision to perform surgery is made. Here are the usual tests conducted during diagnosis:
Treatments of Appendicitis
The Appendicitis treatment starts by keeping the patient away from drinks and eatables. An intravenous drip is applied to hydrate the victim. Antibiotic drug given intravenously for instance cefuroxime and Flagyl might be administered early to help obliterate bacterium and therefore bring down the outspread of infection in the abdominal cavity and post surgery complications in the belly or wound. Ambiguous cases may get harder to evaluate with antibiotic drug treatment and benefit from successive tests. The most effective treatment for appendicitis expects surgical operation to move out the appendix (the surgical procedure is known as an appendectomy) prior to the appendix opens or busts. While expecting operation, the victim will be given intravenous fluids to keep hydrated. The patient won’t be permitted to eat or drink as doing so might stimulate complications with the anesthesia during surgical operation.
Prevention of Appendicitis
There are some tips for healthy diet that help to maintain good appendix and reduce the risks of getting chronic appendicitis. Only eating enough to feel healthy will not help one to prevent chronic appendicitis, but managing the diet as per the needs of the body is beneficial here. Although, the chronic appendicitis symptoms are milder, but they can suggest you if there is something wrong in the body. For example, a normal stomach flu or virus can last not more than one week, but the symptoms of chronic appendicitis will remain unaffected even after the treatment. Sometimes, these symptoms get worse every day by causing the death of the patient. In short, despites its slow and lengthy progress, chronic appendicitis can be dangerous due to its serious affects. Hence, patients are suggested to seek medical advice immediately after they recognize the above mentioned symptoms more than a week.
When to seek Medical Advice
Call a health care practitioner if there are acute symptoms of middle/lower or right/lower abdominal pain with fever and/or vomiting. If symptoms of abdominal pain continue for more than four hours, an urgent medical evaluation should be performed at the health care practitioner's office or a hospital's emergency department.