Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a tube of tissue that extends from the Caecum (the beginning of large intestine). The function of the appendix is unclear but appendicectomy does not appear to cause any long term consequences.
Approximately one in 15 people will get appendicitis. Although it can occur at any age, appendicitis is rare under age 2 and most common between ages 10 and 30.
What Causes Appendicitis?
Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes blocked, often by stool, a foreign body, or cancer. Blockage may also occur from infection, since the appendix swells in response to any infection in the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Appendicitis?
The classic symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is usually the first sign.
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
- Abdominal swelling
- Fever of
- Inability to pass gas
Other symptoms of appendicitis may include
- Dull or sharp pain anywhere in the upper or lower abdomen, back, or rectum
- Painful urination
- Vomiting that precedes the abdominal pain
- Severe cramps
- Constipation or diarrhea with gas
How Is Appendicitis Diagnosed?
Appendicitis can be diagnosed by a combination of clinical examination and blood tests. Occasionally scans may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
How Is Appendicitis Treated?
Appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires urgent surgery to remove the appendix. Left untreated, an inflamed appendix can burst, or perforate, spilling infectious materials into the abdominal cavity. This can lead to peritonitis, a serious inflammation of the abdominal cavity’s lining (the peritoneum) that can be fatal unless it is treated quickly with strong antibiotics. There is some evidence from other countries about treating early appenidicitis with antibiotics alone.
Surgery to remove the appendix, which is called an appendicectomy, is the standard treatment for appendicitis. It is performed laparoscopically (key-hole) as standard but ocassionally an open operation may be needed.