What is appendix?
Appendix is a worm-like small organ attached to the cecum part of the intestine. Its worm-like appearance or structure gives it the anatomical name, vermiform appendix. This little organ has no function in the case of modern human beings but was functional in ancient times. However, some scientists and medical experts feel that it has some important function and is the storehouse of good bacteria, helping to reboot digestive system post diarrheal diseases.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is a condition wherein the appendix is inflamed due to various reasons. The inflammation can be due to blockage of the appendix opening into the cecum. This blockage can occur because of accumulation of thick-mucus or stool entering the appendix from cecum.
The mucus or the stool hardens or becomes rock like, and thus blocks the opening of the appendix into the cecum. Other times, the lymphatic tissues present in appendix may swell up and block the opening. Once the stool or mucus accumulates, it causes the usual microbial flora present within appendix to multiply and infect the walls of appendix.
In reaction to the microbial invasion, the body launches an attack in the form of inflammation; this causes the excruciating appendicitis pain. When such a pain occurs, it is important to seek medical help, for if the symptoms persist and the pain goes untreated, the inflamed appendix can rupture causing the microbial colony to spread outside of appendix. Once the rupture takes place, the bacteria can affect other parts of the visceral region like the abdomen.
Symptoms of Appendicitis and pain location
The most commonly occurring symptom of appendicitis is abdominal pain. The pain is of a diffuse nature in its initial phase and people suffering from it are unable to pinpoint an exact location for the origin of pain. Often, when a person is asked to pinpoint the location of appendicitis pain, they usually indicate location of their pain with a circular motion. The circular motion surrounds the central part of the abdomen or stomach. During the later stage of appendicitis, the pain becomes localized and limited to the right lower corner of the abdomen, and is successfully pinpointed by the patient.
Another common symptom of appendicitis is the loss of appetite. The loss of appetite takes the shape of nausea and vomiting during the later stages of appendicitis. However, nausea and vomiting can also occur later because of intestinal obstruction. Other symptoms of appendicitis include abdominal swelling, a fever of 99 to 102 Fahrenheit degrees, and the inability to pass out gas. Additionally, in the case of some patients, a dull or sharp pain occurs anywhere in the back region, upper or lower abdomen, and rectum; painful urination, severe cramps and constipation.
If a person has any of the above mentioned symptoms, then it is important to seek for immediate medical help to facilitate timely diagnosis as well as treatment. Furthermore, it is highly advisable to not drink, eat, or use any kind of pain remedies, laxatives, antacids, or heating pads as these can cause the inflamed appendix to burst.
What causes Appendicitis?
As explained above appendicitis can occur due to the blockage of the opening of the appendix into the cecum, this blockage can be due to any reason, either due to the accumulation of mucus or due to the accumulation of stool. Besides, the blockage responsible for inflammation can also occur due to infection, as the appendix can swell up in response to any kind of infection in a person’s body. Recent studies have found that even cancer can cause appendicitis.
All cases of appendicitis are treated as emergency and the only solution to the problem is surgery and the removal of the organ. An abscessed appendix, which is nothing but one in which an abscess (an infection walled off from remaining body) is formed outside inflamed appendix, is treated as a less urgent case, but sadly this case cannot be recognized without surgery. Thus, all the appendicitis cases are deemed emergency cases needing immediate surgery.
Diagnosis of Appendicitis
The diagnosis of appendicitis can be very tricky. Symptoms associated with appendicitis are somewhat similar to other health problems like gastritis, urinary tract infection, gallbladder problems, intestinal infection, Crohn’s disease, and even ovary problems. So medical professionals use certain tests to identify or diagnose appendicitis. These include abdominal examination to detect inflammation, rectal exam, and urine test for ruling out any kind of urinary tract infection, blood test to examine whether patient’s body is fighting the infection, and CT scans or ultrasound.
Treatment and Post-Appendectomy
Appendectomy or removal of appendix is the standard method for appendicitis treatment. This is the best method for safe and quick removal of the appendix and prevents any rupture. Antibiotics are given to the patient before appendectomy to help them fight possible peritonitis. Within 12 hours of appendectomy, the patient can move around and can perform normal activities within three weeks. However, post appendectomy if symptoms like uncontrolled vomiting, severe abdominal pain, dizziness, fever, or blood filled vomit or urine is observed then they must immediately inform their doctor.