Appendicitis – Symptoms and Treatment

Appendicitis – a common health problem which can become life threatening when left untreated

The Appendix is a small extension of the large intestine. As to this day, regardless of the impressive, outstanding progress of medicine, it remains unclear as exactly what role this small organ has in the overall functioning of the digestive system. No matter the appendix serves, it does not seem to be a very important one, as we can very well live the same with or without it.

Sometimes, during the course of one’s life, this appendix gets inflamed fact which causes the condition known as appendicitis. Under these circumstances, it becomes a life-threatening medical emergency and it must be surgically removed in order to avoid rupture or perforation, which may in turn cause general infection in the abdomen due to the spilling of infectious bacteria in the abdominal lover cavity.

In extreme cases, this very common condition can become life threatening as it can lead to peritonitis and the entire abdominal cavity gets infected, a fact which left untreated can easily progress to sepsis. When let untreated appendicitis can lead to death.

However, when intervened surgically and/or with strong antibiotics, the infection will be kept under control and everything will be just fine. In many of the so-called Third-World, developing countries, suffering from appendicitis is a serious problem as many of the citizens there has no fast, access to good medical care.

Worldwide, appendicitis is considered to be among the most significant and common causes of severe  pain in the abdominal region that comes on quickly.

Causes impossible to avoid

Any infection existing in the body may cause the appendix to swell. At some point, it can be blocked due to viral infections, gallstone, parasites or in some cases, even by tumors.

This blockage causes pressure to increase and the blood flow to decrease within the appendix. In addition to these, the bacterial level grows inside the appendix causing inflammation.

Symptoms might be confusing

First indications that one might have appendicitis are the following:

  • Sharp and sudden pain in the lower abdomen area

  • The pain worsens if you walk, cough or do any physical activity

  • Low appetite, vomiting, and nausea

  • Chills and fever

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Frequent gas and bloating

  • Severe cramps

However, a lot of people do not experience any of the symptoms and so the appendicitis goes undiagnosed and untreated for a long time fact which can lead to this condition becoming life threatening.

Statistics show that even if most people suffering from appendicitis suffer from severe abdominal pain, one out of every 3 people who end up suffering from this emergency health condition do not experience any pain during the process. In these cases, the most common methods of diagnostic are computed tomography or a simple ultrasound.

With no typical signs that might raise some red flags on the health situations, this common and uncomplicated condition can easily turn into a very dangerous situation with severe complications such as peritonitis with widely spread and painful inflammation in the lower abdomen and even sepsis. If you suffer from the above symptoms and suspect that you are having appendicitis, visit your doctor today!

Diagnosis established after full evaluation

If you experience these symptoms, don’t waste any more time and immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor. Usually, the diagnosis is established based on symptoms as well as the patient’s medical history.

If needed, the doctor can also order same blood and urine tests and an imaging investigation that can either be a radiology image or a CT, ultrasound scan. In the case of children or pregnant women, the doctor will perform an ultrasound as it is less dangerous for the frail body.

If the doctor confirms that you have appendicitis, most likely you will be hospitalized and a surgeon will prepare you for the removal of the appendix.

Treatment – under the knife

There is only one effective way to treat an inflamed appendix and avoid all the dangerous complications, it may cause: the surgical removal. In certain cases, where the appendicitis didn’t rupture yet, antibiotics might be also effective.

The surgical procedure is really simple, does not imply high risks and you will be out of the hospital in no time. The doctor must decide, based on a medical evaluation, whether they should perform a laparotomy or a laparoscopy.

Whatever path they will choose, the incisions in the abdomen are usually very small and if intervened in time – before rupture of the appendix- the recovery will be quick and easy. In the case of the laparotomy, you might need to spend an extra day or two in the hospital as the doctor will perform an open incision in the abdomen area. The laparoscopic procedure consists in inserting a small video camera into the abdomen and some special surgical tools in order to remove the appendix.

Usually, the recovery is faster and with less pain than the recovery after laparotomy. The laparoscopic procedure is recommended for elderly people. This procedure cannot be performed if your appendix has already ruptured and the infection has already spread through your abdomen. In this case, the doctor must be able to thoroughly clean the entire abdominal cavity, so the incision will be larger.

The recovery will also be longer and will simply a series of antibiotics to prevent further spread of the bacteria in the body. Those who suffer from complications can have their hospital stay extended up to a couple of weeks.

Recovery and time off

Even though this procedure is considered to be one of the easiest surgical procedures out there, clear your agenda for the next several weeks after the appendectomy as your body will need time in order to heal after this procedure. However, there are several things you can do in order to help your body heal faster:

  • Avoid any kind of physical effort.

  • When you cough or laugh, try to support your abdomen.

  • Sleeping helps your body heal so take advantage of your time off and sleep in as much as possible.

  • Don’t panic if unable to get up from the bed immediately after surgery. In some cases, it might take up to 24 hours after the surgery until you are ready to get out of bed.

  • Start taking a few steps and move slowly only when you are ready. You might need some support when taking your first steps around after the surgery. Recovery should proceed pretty fast after that.

  • If you feel like the pain persists and the medication is not effective, call your doctor.

  • Discuss with your doctor about the healing process and return to work or school only after the doctor approves of you doing so.

Even though this is condition is so easy to treat and recover from, it is not insignificant and can lead to death when left untreated. Due to poor access to high-quality medical services, tens of thousands of people still die every year from appendicitis.

Unfortunately, as of now, appendicitis can’t be efficiently predicted or prevented. Usually, at some point in our lives, we all go through this experience. However, studies showed that people with a healthy diet,  which is heavily based on fruits and vegetables, as well as those who eat foods that contain high levels of fiber are less prone to getting appendicitis.

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