The appendix is a 2- to 4-inch, worm-shaped organ attached to the lower half of the intestines. Doctors cannot precisely say what function this organ serves in the body. It’s possible it contributes to fighting off some infections, but we aren’t quite sure.
Inflammation of the appendix is known as appendicitis. This is usually due to blockage of the gland leading to infection. Blockage of the apendix can be caused by – bacteria, Viruses, hardened fecal matter, parasites, ulcers, abdominal rips or tearing. This can be a serious condition. And, it’s always an emergency.
Left untreated, an inflamed appendix can burst. This can lead to spread of infection and may cause inflammation in the lining of the abdomen.
Every individual has a low risk for developing appendicitis during their lifetime. This risk is about 7-10%. However, appendicitis is most common among children aged 10 to 19. In fact, it’s the most frequent reason for emergency surgery in persons of this age group.
Appendicitis isn’t hereditary, and also, not infectious. This means that you can’t pass it to others. But there is nothing you or your doctor can do to prevent it or reduce your risk of getting it.
The commonest symptom of appendicitis is new or worsening pain in the lower right part of your abdomen. Other possible symptoms include – fever, loss of appetite with nausea or vomiting, lack of energy and inability to pass gas
Appendicitis symptoms can mimic other abdominal conditions like Crohn’s disease, gallbladder problems, urinary tract infections and pelvic inflammatory disease. So, it’s important to see a doctor when you experience any of these abdominal symptoms for a proper diagnosis.
There’s no blood test to identify appendicitis. A blood panel can show an increase in your white blood cell count, a pointer to possible infection. An abdominal or pelvic CT scan or X-rays may also help in making a diagnosis. Doctors typically use ultrasound to diagnose appendicitis in children.
What are your treatment options?
In less severe cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. However, most appendicitis cases require surgery (an appendectomy) to remove the appendix.
If your appendix hasn’t burst, your doctor may remove it through a small cut in the belly button. This procedure is better for older adults and those who are overweight. Recovery typically takes between two and four weeks.
A ruptured appendix requires open surgery. The surgeon will clean out any infection that’s spread in the abdomen.
References: Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Wikipedia
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