Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, the appendix is a small, tube-like organ attached to the first part of the large intestine with no known function. It is located in the lower right part of the abdomen. A blockage inside of the appendix leads to increased pressure, problems with blood flow, and inflammation, which is appendicitis . Leave untreated, the appendix can burst and spread infection into the abdomen.
In the United States, appendicitis is the most common cause of acute abdominal pain requiring surgery, it most commonly occurs in the teens and twenties but may occur at any age. Over 5% of the population develops appendicitis at some point.
Appendicitis can have more than one cause, and in many cases the cause is not clear. Possible causes include:
- Blockage of the opening inside the appendix
- enlarged tissue in the wall of your appendix, caused by infection in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or elsewhere in your body
- inflammatory bowel disease
- stool, parasites, or growths that can clog your appendiceal lumen
- trauma to your abdomen
Symptoms of appendicitis may include:
- Pain in the lower right abdomen, usually sudden and gets worse over time
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to pass gas
- Low grade fever
- Abdominal bloating
When you’re pregnant, the pain may seem to come from your upper abdomen because your appendix is higher during pregnancy.
Doctor usually examine your abdomen and order tests to diagnose appendicitis.
- Physical exam. Your doctor may apply gentle pressure on the painful area. When the pressure is suddenly released, appendicitis pain will often feel worse, signaling that the adjacent peritoneum is inflamed.
- Blood test. This allows your doctor to check for a high white blood cell count, which may indicate an infection. Blood tests also may show dehydration or fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
- Urinalysis. Your doctor may want you to have a urinalysis to rule out a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may also recommend an abdominal X-ray, an abdominal ultrasound or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to help confirm appendicitis or find other causes for your pain.
Doctors typically treat appendicitis with surgery to remove the appendix. Surgeons perform the surgery in a hospital with general anesthesia. Prompt surgery decreases the chance that your appendix will burst.
Health care professionals call the surgery to remove the appendix an appendectomy. A surgeon performs the surgery using one of the following methods:
- Laparoscopic surgery. During laparoscopic surgery, surgeons use several smaller incisions and special surgical tools that they feed through the incisions to remove your appendix. Laparoscopic surgery leads to fewer complications, such as hospital-related infections, and has a shorter recovery time.
- Laparotomy. Surgeons use laparotomy to remove the appendix through a single incision in the lower right area of your abdomen.
After surgery, most patients completely recover from appendicitis and don’t need to make changes to their diet, exercise, or lifestyle. Surgeons recommend that you limit physical activity for the first 10 to 14 days after a laparotomy and for the first 3 to 5 days after laparoscopic surgery.
Some cases of mild appendicitis may be cured with antibiotics alone. All patients suspected of having appendicitis are treated with antibiotics before surgery, and some patients may improve completely before surgery is performed.
Researchers have not found that eating, diet, and nutrition cause or prevent appendicitis.
After the surgery, your body needs a week or longer to recover. In order to help your body heal, you may:
- Avoid strenuous activity at first – 3 to 5 days for appendectomy, 10-14 days for open appendectomy
- Support your abdomen when you cough
- Get up and move when you’re ready
- Get enough rest
- Call your doctor if your pain medications aren’t helping
- Discuss with your doctor about returning to work – you can return to work or school as long as you feel up to it, however, wait two to four weeks before gym class, sports and strenuous activity