what to do if you have appendicitis

Your appendix is a finger-shaped pouch that projects out from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen – it’s approximately 3.5 inches in length.  This small structure has no known essential purpose and we can live without it without apparent consequences

What is appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a condition in which your appendix becomes inflamed and fills with pus. Left untreated, an inflamed appendix will eventually burst, or perforate, spilling infectious materials into the abdominal cavity.  This can lead to peritonitis, a serious inflammation of the abdominal cavity's lining that can be fatal unless it is treated quickly.  Appendicitis can affect anyone, but it most often occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30.

What are the common signs and symptoms of appendicitis?

It is characterized by aching pain that begins around your navel and often shifts to your lower right abdomen.  The location of your pain may vary, depending on your age and the position of your appendix.  But the following are signs to watch out for:

·       Pain that becomes sharper over 12-18 hours

·       Tenderness that occurs when you apply pressure to your lower right abdomen

·       Sharp pain in your lower right abdomen that occurs when the area is pressed on

·       Pain that worsens if you cough, walk or make other quick movements

·       Nausea

·       Vomiting

·       Loss of appetite

·       Low-grade fever

·       Constipation

·       Inability to pass gas

·       Diarrhea

·       Abdominal swelling

If it is left untreated, a ruptured appendix can leak into your abdominal cavity leading to an infection of your abdominal cavity.

How is appendicitis diagnosed?

The pain from appendicitis may change over time, so establishing a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult.  Abdominal pain can arise from a number of health problems other than appendicitis, so the proper exams are necessary for proper diagnosis. These include:

  • Physical exam where your doctor may apply gentle pressure on the painful area
  • Blood tests will check for a high white blood cell count, which may indicate an infection
  • Urine test to make sure that a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone isn't causing your pain
  • Imaging tests (i.e. abdominal X-ray, an ultrasound scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan) can help confirm appendicitis or find other causes for your pain

What are my treatment options for appendicitis?

The primary treatment is surgery to remove the appendix. If your appendix has burst and an abscess has formed around it, the abscess must be drained before appendectomy.