The appendix, a small, useless bit of tissue that hangs off of our large intestine. It may have had a function thousands of years ago, but as we’ve evolved, it’s now just for show. Although it doesn’t have a purpose, it can still cause very serious health problems. If inflammation of the appendix, appendicitis, goes untreated, the infected and inflamed organ can eventually burst. Once that happens, the entire abdominal cavity lining will become infected (peritonitis). Peritonitis is fatal without prompt medical treatment.
How is appendicitis contracted?
Appendicitis is not contagious. It happens when the appendix becomes blocked, usually by stool, foreign bodies, or cancer. The appendix also swells if there is an infection elsewhere in the body, which can also cause it to be blocked. Appendicitis is also very common, occurring once per every fifteen people in the United States, typically between the ages of ten and thirty.
What are the warning signs of appendicitis?
Classic symptoms of appendicitis are:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal pain (dull near the navel and sharpening towards the lower right abdomen, where the appendix is located)
- Nausea (typically begins after abdominal pain)
- Fever of 100-102
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Unable to pass gas
Additional, unusual signs include:
- Dull or sharp pain anywhere in the abdominal region, lower back, or rectum
- Vomiting that begins before the abdominal pain
- Painful urination
How is appendicitis treated?
Since the symptoms of appendicitis coincide with so many other medical problems, it can be difficult to diagnose. A series of tests will determine what the exact cause of your discomfort is. Once diagnosed, you’ll need to have an appendectomy. This is the standard treatment for appendicitis, and is simply the removal of the appendix. You may have to have a 2 to 4 inch long incision, or it may be done via laparoscopic surgery. It depends entirely on how bad the appendix is, or if there are additional procedures that need to be performed (drainage/removal of abscesses, etc.). You’ll most likely spend a day or two in the hospital for monitoring purposes. Usually, you’ll be up and around within 12 hours, and back to normal activity levels within two to three weeks! Just make sure you follow your doctor’s orders.
If you suspect you have appendicitis, don’t wait. Get to a doctor. It can get very dangerous very quickly. Come to the urgent care and we’ll run the necessary tests, and if need be, refer you out to the hospital for further treatment.