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Signs of Appendicitis

Know the Signs of Appendicitis

There are many reasons why you could have abdominal pain, including constipation, food poisoning, urinary tract infection, stomach flu – or appendicitis. The signs of appendicitis may be confused with other causes of stomach-area pain, yet the consequences may be life-threatening. So how do you know the difference, and why is it important to understand the warning signs of appendicitis?

Appendicitis is caused by an inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is:

  • A small, tube-like organ
  • About 4 inches long
  • Attached to the first part of the large intestine, or colon
  • Located on the lower right side of the abdomen

The appendix has no known function but problems can arise if it becomes blocked by fecal matter or some other cause resulting in inflammation. If the blockage is not treated, the appendix can burst and spread infection into the body.

Understanding the Signs of Appendicitis

Anyone can get appendicitis, but it usually occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 and predominantly affects men. The most common sign of appendicitis is pain that develops around the navel and then shifts to the lower right abdomen while increasing in severity. Additional symptoms associated with appendicitis may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low fever
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Inability to pass gas

Abdominal pain may worsen after coughing, walking, sneezing, taking a deep breath or experiencing a jarring movement. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms or pain location. For example, young children and pregnant women can have pain elsewhere. Some patients may just feel unwell due to an underlying medical condition, so a doctor will want to rule out other health issues based on medical history.

Diagnosing and Treating Appendicitis

Appendicitis requires immediate medical attention. Steps in a diagnosis of appendicitis are usually:

  • Thorough examination of the abdomen
  • Review of symptoms
  • Possible blood test to check for a high white blood cell count
  • Urinalysis to rule out a urinary tract infection or kidney stone
  • Imaging test to find other causes for the pain (if unclear)

Treatment may begin with antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Depending on the severity of the condition, surgery, called an appendectomy, may be necessary.

The procedure may be performed either through an incision or using a laparoscope. Conventional surgery requires making a small cut in the lower right abdomen to allow access to the appendix.

The laparoscopic procedure involves using tiny instruments inserted through several small abdominal incisions.

In general, patients who undergo laparoscopic surgery require less pain medication and have a faster recovery with less scarring compared to open surgery.

There is no effective home remedy to treat appendicitis. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. A delay in seeking treatment may lead to complications such as:

  • Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdomen)
  • Ruptured appendix, resulting in widespread infection
  • Death

Recovery is typically quick and complete when people seek treatment right away. For more information about appendicitis, talk with your doctor.

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