Appendicitis: what are the symptoms and how to treat them?

Appendicitis is the inflammation and infection of the appendix. What are the symptoms of appendicitis? What are the causes? How is appendicitis diagnosed and treated? Here are our explanations.

What is appendicitis?

Definition

Appendicitis is a sudden inflammation of the appendix, a small, worm-shaped growth, also called appendix vermiformis, located at the beginning of the large intestine, on the lower right side of the abdomen.

Causes of appendicitis

Appendicitis is often the result of obstruction of this small anatomical structure by:

  • feces
  • mucus
  • thickening of the lymphoid tissue present.

It can also be caused by a tumor that obstructs the base of the appendix. The appendix then becomes swollen, colonized with bacteria, and may eventually begin to necrotic.

The crisis most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30. It affects 1 in 15 people, and slightly more often men than women.

The appendix, a useless organ?

For a long time, it was believed that the appendix had no use. It is now known to produce antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, like several other organs. It, therefore, plays a role in the immune system, but since it is not alone in making antibodies, its removal does not weaken the immune defenses.

Appendicitis must be treated quickly, otherwise, it may rupture. This usually causes peritonitis, which is an infection of the peritoneum, the thin wall that surrounds the abdominal cavity and contains the intestines. Peritonitis can, in some cases, be fatal and requires emergency medical intervention.

Appendicitis pain: when to consult?

If you experience sharp, persistent pain in the lower abdomen, near the navel or further to the right, accompanied by fever or vomiting, go to the emergency room.

In children and pregnant women, the location of the appendix may vary slightly. If in doubt, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.

In case of an appendicitis attack, before going to the hospital:

  • Avoid drinking. This could delay surgery. If you are thirsty, moisten your lips with water;
  • Do not take laxatives: they may increase the risk of the appendix bursting.

Pain near the navel and gradually progressing to the lower right part of the abdomen may be a sign of appendicitis. What to do? Here are our answers.

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

The symptoms of appendicitis can vary slightly from person to person and change over time:

  • the first symptoms of pain usually appear near the navel and gradually progress to the lower right part of the abdomen;
  • the pain worsens gradually, usually over a period of 6 to 12 hours;
  • The pain eventually localizes halfway between the navel and the pubic bone, on the right side of the abdomen.

When the abdomen is pressed near the appendix and the pressure is released suddenly, the pain worsens. This can be increased by:

  • cough;
  • an effort like walking;
  • breathing.

The pain is;

  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • loss of appetite;
  • low fever;
  • constipation;
  • diarrhea;
  • gas;
  • stiffness in the abdomen.

In young children, the pain is less localized. In older adults, the pain is sometimes less severe.

If the appendix ruptures, sometimes the pain subsides momentarily. However, the abdomen quickly becomes bloated and rigid. At this point, it is a medical emergency.

Appendicitis: people at risk and prevention

Appendicitis occurs:

  • most often between the ages of 10 and 30;
  • slightly more often in men than in women.

Can appendicitis be prevented?

It is possible, but not proven, that a healthy and diversified diet, which facilitates intestinal transit, decreases the risk of appendicitis crisis.

How to treat appendicitis?

Appendicitis operation

Only surgery can treat an appendicitis attack.

The classic operation is to remove the appendix through an incision of a few centimeters near the right iliac fossa, and a few centimeters above the groin. The surgeon can also proceed laparoscopically, making three incisions of a few millimeters in the abdomen and inserting a small camera into one of them.

Depending on the severity of the infection, patients may be discharged from the hospital the next day or within days of their surgery. The incision heals within a few weeks.

It should be noted that it happens, in 15 to 20% of cases, that the removal of the appendix reveals that it was normal. This is due to the fact that it is often difficult to make an accurate diagnosis and the risk of missing appendicitis, with the dangerous complications that this entails, makes a certain percentage of errors inevitable. But the removal of the appendix does not cause any undesirable side effects.

Appendicitis: complementary approaches

Complementary approaches have no place in the treatment of appendicitis.

Image Credit: Image by drobotdean on Freepik

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