Very few of us ever give our appendix much thought. Hidden away deep inside and attached to the cecum (the first part of the colon), this 3 ½ -inch closed-ended, narrow, worm-like tube doesn’t even appear to have a purpose. It has never been determined what exactly its function or role is in the body. One theory is that our early ancestors needed the appendix to digest tough food. Another theory is that because it does contain some immune tissue, that maybe it has a role in protecting the colon from bacterial invaders wanting to cause harm.
But for whatever reason, when it decides to make itself known by rearing its head resulting in appendicitis, watch out. Appendicitis is an infection where bacteria have invaded the appendix causing inflammation along with pus resulting in severe abdominal pain.
Anyone of any age can be affected by appendicitis but teens and young adults appear to be the victims of it the most. Women also tend to have higher rates of appendicitis than men.
Symptoms of appendicitis
The most common signs and symptoms of appendicitis are:
· Severe abdominal pain and tenderness usually starting in the middle of the abdomen and then moving to the lower right-hand side of the abdomen where the appendix resides.
· Loss of appetite
· Nausea and vomiting
· Frequent passing of urine
Causes of appendicitis
In most cases of appendicitis, it is generally not known what causes it. It could be due to a blockage occurring along the appendix or hard stools that are obstructing the appendix. If a blockage occurs, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites may thrive inside it causing infection and inflammation inside the appendix.
If a person has the typical symptoms of appendicitis, a doctor should be able to diagnosis it easily. But some people don’t always have the typical symptoms as there are many other medical conditions it could be mistaken for such as pelvic inflammatory disease, cystitis, passing a kidney stone, or colitis.
Blood and urine tests are conducted to get a more definitive diagnosis along with imaging tests using a CT scan can help determine the cause of the symptoms. A blood test will often show a high white blood cell count.
Most of the time, the treatment is surgery (appendectomy) to remove the appendix. Removal of the appendix does not appear to have any long-term health consequences. Surgery is used to avoid the possible complication of the appendix rupturing releasing bacteria into the abdomen potentially leading to other life-threatening infections.
Appendicitis is considered a medical emergency with the appendix typically being removed within 24 hours after being diagnosed.
Most people will make a complete recovery after surgery as long as the appendix did not rupture beforehand. Recovery from an appendectomy is usually fairly fast as most people can expect to leave the hospital within 1 to 2 days after surgery. A full recovery from an appendectomy will take a few weeks with the doctor prescribing medications for pain.
It is recommended not to lift heave objects or participate in strenuous activity for several days after the procedure.
Is it possible to prevent appendicitis?
While there is no way to prevent appendicitis, consuming a diet rich in plenty of high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains may help.