In the Western world, appendicitis is the most common cause of abdominal pain. These people usually show up to the emergency room in severe abdominal pain and associated symptoms and undergo surgery to fix the issue.
Although anyone can suffer from acute appendicitis, it often affects young adults or teenagers. There is no variation due to one’s gender, and males and females both have equal chances of getting appendicitis.
However, if managed on time, it is nothing to fear. You will be healthy as a horse once you have been treated and taken care of.
Here is everything you need to know about appendicitis.
What is the Appendix?
The appendix is a vestigial organ, i.e., something you have evolved not to need anymore. It is a thin, narrow tube, two to twenty centimeters in length, in the lower right part of your abdomen. It is connected to your gut, the large intestine in particular – you will see why that is important to know!
What is Appendicitis?
Appendicitis is simply an inflammation of your appendix. Like any other part of your body, the appendix can become inflamed and cause severe abdominal pain. However, appendix pain is of a specific kind in most cases and can easily be recognized.
Let’s look at the signs and symptoms of acute appendicitis. We will come back to its causes in a bit.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
Appendicitis has some very telling symptoms, which you can use to pinpoint what the issue is easily.
The typical symptoms of an inflamed appendix are:
- Pain that begins in the upper, central part of the abdomen and then shifts to the right lower part
- Pain in the right lower part of the abdomen
- A loss of appetite for a few hours before the pain starts
- Constipation in most cases
- Diarrhea in some cases
- Sometimes rigors
However, these symptoms may be accompanied by other features. These develop because the enlarged and inflamed appendix presses on other organs, causing pain, discomfort, and related symptoms.
Here are a few examples:
- When the appendix is directed downwards, it may press on the bladder and cause misleading bladder symptoms
- If the appendix is projecting towards the gut, it can block a part of your intestines, leading to bloating and cramping
Therefore, appendicitis causes a range of symptoms. They may not all be present, but it is important to be open-minded so that you can reach the right conclusion.
How Does Appendix Pain Differ from Other Abdominal Pains?
Among half of the people with appendicitis, appendix pain only begins next o pain in the central, upper abdomen. However, this pain may move up or down, and its key feature is that it should be central. For some people, this pain is closer to the chest.
When the pain shifts to the right lower quadrant of your abdomen, the upper central pain disappears. This shift usually occurs in a few hours, but it can also sometimes take two to three days.
Moreover, appendicitis causes pain of a cramping, twisting sort. In most cases, this is severe and crippling, and the person cannot stay upright. Sometimes, though, it is so mild that people tend to mistake it for indigestion.
The most telling feature of appendicitis is appendix pain. However, it is subject to variation in fifty percent of the population. Some of these variations include:
- It may begin and stay in the right lower part of the abdomen
- It may never move to the right lower part and remain in the upper central area
- The pain may be present in both areas simultaneously
- It may radiate to the back or upwards towards the chest
- There may be no significant pain at all
What are the 4 Types of Appendicitis?
The four types of appendicitis can be classified based on how it begins and how it progresses.
1. Acute Appendicitis
The inflammation begins abruptly, with sudden pain. It is usually accompanied by bouts of vomiting and a preceding loss of appetite. Acute appendicitis needs immediate surgical correction.
2. Chronic Appendicitis
This is quite unusual and rare. In this case, the inflammation has been there for quite a while and progresses slowly.
3. Simple Appendicitis
In easy words, it means appendicitis and appendicitis only. It is accompanied by neither any other issue nor results in more complications. The surgical correction only focuses on removing the inflamed organ.
4. Complex Appendicitis
These cases of appendicitis get very complicated. Most commonly, the appendix can rupture and spill all the infective material and bacteria into your abdomen. This leads to the formation of an intra-abdominal abscess.
What Causes Appendicitis?
Although it is the most common cause of abdominal pain in the West, the causes can often be unknown. However, the following things can lead to any of the 4 types of appendicitis:
- Blocking of the tube’s lumen by food from the intestines, or simply poop
- A similar blocking due to swollen lymphoid tissue in the gut
- A stricture in the tube of the appendix
- Sometimes, a small tumor can form at its base
- Childhood infections
How is it Diagnosed?
Doctors use something called the Alvarado Score for diagnosing acute appendicitis. Eight parameters are considered, each having a score of one or two, leading to a total of ten. A person with a score of seven or more is very likely to have acute appendicitis.
In addition to this, ultrasound and CT scans can prove to be very helpful in building a surefire diagnosis.
The preferred treatment is the surgical removal of the appendix, called an appendectomy.
- In an open appendectomy, an incision is made, and the appendix removed
- In a closed appendectomy, a laparoscope is used to remove the appendix
Antibiotics might be able to fix the issue nonsurgically in some cases of chronic appendicitis. However, this is very rare.
The Bottom Line
Appendicitis is no joke. If left unattended, it can cause a life-threatening infection. However, the good news is that it is manageable and curable as long as one acts promptly.
In case you feel any of the symptoms described above, please visit a doctor immediately. We hope you found the article helpful.